U.S. missile destroyer passes through Taiwan Strait, China reacts

The U.S. Navy announced Thursday, March 11, that a U.S. guided-missile destroyer passed through the Taiwan Strait. The announcement came a day after U.S. Navy Commander Admiral Davidson warned in the Senate that he fears a Chinese invasion of Taiwan by 2027.

The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the U.S. guided-missile destroyer John Finn sailed into the strait separating mainland China and Taiwan on Wednesday.

In a statement, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said it was the third such operation since President Joe Biden‘s inauguration to “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to support freedom and openness in the Indo-Pacific region.”

AFP stressed that the U.S. warship’s passage through the Taiwan Strait comes just a day after U.S. Admiral Philip Davidson warned Chinese forces of a possible invasion of Taiwan within six years.

Admiral Davidson, commander of the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region, told a committee of U.S. federal senators on Tuesday, “I’m concerned that they [the Chinese military] are accelerating their original plan to replace the United States by 2050. …It’s clear that Taiwan is part of their ambition, and I think the threat will come in the next 10 years, actually not in the next six years.”

China criticizes U.S. military for “hype”

AFP describes Taiwan as having a population of 23 million. Since 1945, the island has been ruled by a regime (“Republic of China”) that retreated to Taiwan after the Communist victory in the civil war in mainland China in 1949.

The Beijing-based “People’s Republic of China” regards the territory of Taiwan as one of its provinces. It has also threatened to use force if the island formally declares independence.

Chinese Air Force spokesman Zhang Chunhui on Thursday accused the U.S. of “open speculation” for having just announced the passage of its missile destroyer through the Taiwan Strait. In a statement, he stressed, “The U.S. ship’s behavior sends wrong signals, deliberately interferes with and undermines the regional situation and jeopardizes peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, to which we express our firm opposition.”

Scramble for influence

Since the traditionally pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen took power in Taiwan in 2016, China has intensified its moves to further isolate the island diplomatically, economically and militarily. Last year, Chinese military aircraft intruded into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (Adiz) a total of 380 times.

China also claims almost the entire South China Sea further south and regularly complains about U.S. “freedom of navigation” operations near islands under its control. The region is the site of a battle for influence between Beijing and Washington.

The South China Sea is an important route for global maritime trade. Several littoral states, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, also have claims to the waters and oppose some of China’s sovereignty claims to the area.

Taiwan claims to be in control throughout

According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency today, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense issued a press release this morning stating that a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait from north to south, passing through the Taiwan Strait, and during the southern sailing, Taiwan’s national army was in full control of the sea and airspace related dynamics around Taiwan, and the conditions were normal.

According to a posting by the U.S. 7th Fleet Facebook fan group “U.S. 7th Fleet,” the USS John Finn (DDG 113), a Burke-class guided missile destroyer equipped with the SHIELD combat system, routinely passed through the Taiwan Strait on March 10 in accordance with international law, proving the U.S. commitment to the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific region, and the U.S. military will continue to perform its mission within the scope allowed by international law. The U.S. military will continue to carry out its mission within the limits of international law.