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U.S. Navy again sends warships through volatile Taiwan Strait

William Cole
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The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, shown here in 2015 off California, traveled through the Taiwan Strait with the USNS Pecos, U.S. Pacific Fleet officials confirmed today.

The U.S. Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait today as it continues to emphasize its right to sail through international waters in East Asia and the South China Sea.

The San Diego-based destroyer USS Stockdale and replenishment vessel USNS Pecos “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit … in accordance with international law,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet headquartered at Pearl Harbor, said in a statement.

“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,” Gorman said.

The passage comes as President Donald Trump is set to meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina later this week with hopes to reach a trade deal. Trump has threatened to place tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese goods.

“The U.S. is coming to the summit in very good shape. Our economy is quite strong. It’s growing at 3 percent over the last year. Second quarter was 4.1 percent,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters Tuesday.

“China, not so good,” he said, adding most observers believe China to be in a slump.

Kudlow said the United States is “in far better shape” to weather increased tariffs, if it comes to that.

The United States is re-emphasizing its ties with democratic Taiwan — a potential flashpoint with China — and is determined to maintain free passage in the South China Sea in the face of an ever-increasing arsenal of sophisticated Chinese weaponry placed on man-made islands.

The Taiwan Strait passage is the third since July. Following a transit on Oct. 22 by the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and cruiser USS Antietam, Senior Col. Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said at a press briefing that the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship was “generally stable.”

“Nevertheless, there are also some negative factors,” he said. “I must say China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea remains unchanged. The Chinese military’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty and development interests is rock-solid.”

The mild reaction contrasted with China’s response to a freedom of navigation operation by the destroyer USS Decatur on Sept. 30 in the South China Sea when it sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs.

China, which claims much of the South China Sea as its territory, sent a Luyang destroyer within 45 yards of the front of the Decatur, conducting what Pacific fleet called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver” that forced the U.S. ship to maneuver to prevent a collision.

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