Petty Officer 3rd Class David Feder watches as the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sails across the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. ()
A week after China flown a record 28 fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense zone, the U.S. Navy dispatched a guided missile destroyer through the narrow strait that separates the island from mainland China on Tuesday.
The “routine” cross-strait transit of the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Navy said in a press release on Tuesday.
It was the sixth time this year that a Navy surface ship passed the politically sensitive Canal. The Curtis Wilbur also made the last transit on May 18.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, Navy warships crossed the Taiwan Strait 11 times in the fiscal year ended September 30.
China’s fighter jets that flew in Taiwan’s airspace on June 15 comprised 14 J-16s and six J-11s, The Associated Press said in a report, citing the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense as the source.
Taiwan deployed its combat air patrols in response to the incursion into the southwestern portion of the island’s air defense identification zone, the report said.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must at some point be politically united with the mainland.
The leaders of the Group of Seven Developed Nations – the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – issued a statement calling for “cross-strait peace and stability” after meeting earlier this month .
China claims that such statements interfere in the country’s internal affairs.
Taiwan, which has a functioning democracy, attracted international attention when the Chinese Communist Party suppressed Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy by passing a national security law last summer that was used to silence and detain dissidents.
This move violated China’s agreement to grant Hong Kong a degree of political autonomy – the so-called “one country, two systems” principle – after Britain surrendered the former colony in 1997.
Beijing had also claimed for years that unification with Taiwan would be peaceful and reciprocal, but the turnaround in Hong Kong has led many international observers to ponder whether China is preparing for violent reunification.