Navy file photos of guided-missile destroyers USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) (top) and USS Stethem (DDG-63) (bottom).Two U.S. guided-missile destroyers conducted a transit through the strait separating Taiwan and mainland China on Sunday, U.S. 7th Fleet officials told USNI News on Monday. USS Stethem (DDG-63) and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) passed through the 110-mile-wide strait in overnight transit.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman, told USNI News in a Monday statement.
U.S. officials said that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) interactions with the two destroyers were “safe and professional.” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang told reporters Monday that Beijing had paid “close attention” to the transit.
“The Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-U.S. relations,” Geng said, according to The Japan Times.
U.S. Navy Taiwan Strait Transits
|Jul 7, 2018||USS Benfold (DDG-65), USS Mustin (DDG-92)|
|Oct 22, 2018||USS Antietam (CG-54), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54)|
|Nov 28, 2018||USS Stockdale (DDG-106), USNS Pecos (T-AO-197)|
|Jan 24, 2019||USS McCampbell (DDG-85), USS Walter Dielh (T-AO-193)|
|Feb 25, 2019||USS Stethem (DDG-63), USNS Ceasar Chavez (T-AKE-14)|
|March 24, 2019||USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), USCGC Bertholf (WSML-750)|
|April 28, 2019||USS Stethem (DDG-63), USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110)|
This was the seventh transit since the U.S. Navy resumed regular passages in July 2018, after a pause of about a year. Destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and Coast Guard cutter USCGC Bertholf (WSML-750) last made the transit in March.
Reuters first reported the passage late Sunday.
The passage comes days after the PLAN had celebrated its 70th anniversary. While U.S. allies Japan and South Korea sent representatives to the ceremonies, there was no American presence.