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US sends warship through Taiwan Strait in message to China

The USS Milius (DDG 69) sails the South China Sea, Nov. 20, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Omar Powell/Released)
November 23, 2021

The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a routine operation on Tuesday. The transit sparked anger from the Communist Chinese government, which considers Taiwan its territory, and it characterized the U.S. warship’s actions as a provocative act.

The U.S. 7th Fleet announced the USS Milius’ transit through the Taiwan Strait in a Tuesday press release. The Navy said, “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Senior Col. Shi Yi, spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said PLA naval and air forces deployed to conduct close-in tracking and monitoring of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer.

“This action of the US side created security risks and undermined regional stability, Shi said. “The troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command will take all measures necessary to resolutely counter all threats and provocations and safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the spokesperson stressed in the statement.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also criticized the U.S. warship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait in a Tuesday press conference.

“The Chinese side was closely following and fully aware of the US military vessel’s passage through the Taiwan Strait,” Zhao said. “The US warships have repeatedly flexed muscles, made provocations and stirred up trouble in the Taiwan Strait in the name of ‘freedom of navigation.’ This is by no means commitment to freedom and openness, but rather deliberate disruption and sabotage of regional peace and stability. The international community sees this plainly.”

“China is firmly resolved in upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao added. “The US side should immediately correct its mistakes, stop making provocations, challenging the bottom line and playing with fire, and play a more constructive role in regional peace and stability.”

The U.S. Navy regularly sails “freedom of navigation operations,” known as FONOPs, in the international waters of the Taiwan Strait. Despite operating in accordance with international law, U.S. FONOPs have also often yielded criticism from the Chinese government.

In June, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) sailed through the strait. That transit also prompted Chinese criticism, with Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Snr. Col. Zhang Chunhui claiming “The U.S. played the old trick to provoke troubles in the Taiwan Strait, deliberately disrupted and undermined the regional security situation, and jeopardized the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Zhang said the transit proved that the U.S. “is the biggest troublemaker for the regional security. China is firmly opposed to that.”

China has increasingly alluded to reunifying with Taiwan and a Congressional report last week indicated China may already have the means to launch a successful invasion of the island.