U.S. Sails Two Navy Ships Through The Taiwan Straight

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Two U.S. Navy warships sailed through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait on Monday, the body of water separating China and Taiwan, the island nation that China considers a breakaway province.

The transit could increase tensions between the U.S. and China as both countries are involved in a trade dispute and as the U.S. voices concerns over China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and USS Antietam (CG 54) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on Oct. 22, in accordance with international law,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, Deputy Spokesman, US Pacific Fleet. ”

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

A similar transit by two U.S. destroyers occurred in July, the first time the Navy had carried out a mission like that in more than a year.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry first confirmed the transit in a statement.

“The Ministry of National Defense said today that two US ships have sailed from the south to the north through the Taiwan Strait,” said a translation of the statement.

“The Ministry of National Defense pointed out that the US ship routinely passed the international waters of the Taiwan Strait, and the relevant details were explained by the US government,” it added.

While the U.S. and China cooperate in denuclearizing North Korea, tensions have increased as both the U.S. and China have engaged in a trade war.

There are also tensions between the two countries over China’s growing military presence on man-made islands in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month a Chinese Navy ship came within 45 yards of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Decatur as it carried out a freedom of navigation passage through international waters close to those islands.

Another irritant in the U.S.-China relationship continues to be U.S. support for Taiwan. The U.S. continues to sell military weapons to the island nation even though it does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China maintains Taiwan is a breakaway province and not an independent nation.

Chinese warship came within 45 yards of USS Decatur in South China Sea: US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Chinese warship came within 45 yards of USS Decatur in South China Sea: US

PHOTO: The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) returns to its homeport, Naval Base San Diego, after completing a seven-month deployment.Seaman Trenton Kotlartz/US Navy
WATCH Flying with the US Navy as it keeps tabs on China over the South China Sea

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Decatur had to maneuver to avoid a collision on Sunday after a Chinese warship came within 45 yards of its bow as the American ship transited a disputed island chain in the South China Sea on Sunday, U.S. defense officials said.

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The close encounter that the U.S. Navy characterized as “unsafe and unprofessional” comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China.

“At approximately 0830 local time on September 30, a PRC LUYANG destroyer approached USS DECATUR in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” said Capt. Charlie Brown, a U.S. Pacific Fleet Spokesman.

Gaven Reef is located in the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea where China claims seven man-made islands as its own.

The close encounter with the Chinese warship occurred as the American destroyer was carrying out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOPs) in the Spratlys, the U.S. said.

The U.S. Navy routinely undertakes FONOP missions worldwide to challenge excessive territorial claims of international shipping lanes.

USS Decatur had sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands when it was approached by the Chinese destroyer.

The Chinese Navy “destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for DECATUR to depart the area,” Brown added.

“The PRC destroyer approached within 45 yards of DECATUR’s bow, after which DECATUR maneuvered to prevent a collision,” said Brown.

A U.S. defense official characterized the close encounter as having been of short duration.

According to another U.S. official, the Chinese warship was initially about 500 yards on the Decatur’s port side then moved ahead of the Decatur and cut across the American destroyer’s bow at a distance of 45 yards (135 feet).

To help visualize that distance, a baseball catcher throwing the ball to second base to throw out a runner throws the baseball a distance of 127 feet.

Chinese vessels have approached U.S. Navy ships during previous FONOPs in the South China Sea, but Sunday’s encounter appears to the be the closest one yet.

“U.S. Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” said Brown. “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

There was no immediate comments from China.

Over the last week, the U.S. and Chinese military relationship has deteriorated as both countries are engaged in a bitter trade dispute.

Last week, a U.S. Air Force B-52 flew a mission through the East China Sea and two other B-52 flights were carried out through the South China Sea.

Also last week, China refused a port of call in Hong Kong to the U.S. Navy ship USS Wasp slated for October and pulled a top admiral from a scheduled meeting with his U.S. Navy counterpart.

On Monday, a U.S. official confirmed that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had canceled a planned trip to China in October after China had downgraded the level of officials he was to meet.

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