Following the conclusion of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s high-profile and well watched visit to Beijing the day before, a U.S. Coast Guard ship made its way across the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in a transit that China termed as “public hype.” The passage came after the ship had sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Monday. According to a statement released by the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet on Thursday, the national security cutter Stratton completed a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday. This transit took place “through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the statement read.
As Beijing ramps up its political and military efforts to try to persuade Taipei to acknowledge Chinese sovereignty, a common source of friction is the politically sensitive strait that separates China from the democratically run island of Taiwan. This strait serves as a physical barrier between the two countries. “The United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific is demonstrated by the USS Straiton’s passage across the Taiwan Strait. The 7th Fleet said in their statement that the United States military “flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The expedition took place the day after Blinken finished a visit to Beijing, during which the two countries agreed to stabilize their heated rivalry so that it does not veer into conflict. However, the visit did not yield any big breakthroughs and so was unsuccessful. The Ministry of Defense of Taiwan stated that the ship was traveling in a northerly route, and that its soldiers were monitoring the situation, which the Ministry of Defense defined as being “normal.” The passage of the ship through Chinese waters was referred to as “public hype” by the Chinese coast guard.
A representative for China’s coast guard stated in a statement that Chinese vessels had followed the U.S. ship “all the way” and that China will “resolutely” protect its sovereignty and security as well as its maritime rights and interests. The statement also indicated that the Chinese vessels had followed the U.S. ship. According to a security source who spoke with Reuters, the American ship exited the narrow passageway in the wee hours of Thursday morning. In recent years, military warships belonging to the United States and, on occasion, those of its allies have routinely navigated the strait, much to the annoyance of China, which considers such missions to be a form of provocation.
This month, the United States Navy released a video of a “unsafe interaction” that occurred in the strait. The interaction depicted a Chinese warship passing in front of a United States destroyer that was working with a Canadian cruiser. The military of Taiwan reports almost daily Chinese incursions in the strait. These incursions usually consist of warplanes that violate the middle line of the waterway, which used to act as an unofficial barrier between the two countries. Taiwan reported on Wednesday that Chinese warships, led by the aircraft carrier Shandong, had passed through the Taiwan Strait. (Reporting was done by Ben Blanchard, further reporting was done by Ryan Woo in Beijing, and Gerry Doyle was responsible for editing)