Multiple Chinese warships secretly spotted the two US vessels during the transit in a move which is believed to be certain to anger Beijing.
The USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam conducted a routine transit to demonstrate US commitment “to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, as stated by Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for US Pacific Fleet. He said that the US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allow them to go. Multiple Chinese warships followed the two US vessels at a safe distance during the transit.
The voyage risks in further increasing the tensions with China, but will most likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support by the US government. This was the second time in three months that US warships have conducted “freedom of navigation” exercises in the 180km-wide area of the international waters. Although, Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed the transit stating that US ships routinely pass the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing had recently conducted a series of military procedures, which included a live fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April, declaring its willingness to confront Taiwan. Washington is Taipei’s most powerful unofficial ally and is considered its main arms supplier. Since 2010, Washington has sold more than 15 billion worth of arms to Taiwan as reported by The Pentagon.
The Trump administration has sought closer ties to Taiwan after they announced their plans to sell it $330 million in spare parts for several aircraft such as the F-16 fighter and the C-130 cargo plane.
Taiwan’s premier William Lai that Taiwan respects the US’s right of passage in international waters and recognizes various efforts of the US to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region.