Navy warship’s transit of Taiwan Strait a first under Biden administration

For the first time in the presidency of Joe Biden, a U.S. Navy warship steamed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, according to the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet.

The guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain’s transit “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” 7th Fleet said in a statement. “The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

While Beijing casts a constant eye toward Taiwan and reuniting the island with the mainland, the U.S. Navy regularly sends ships through the strait to back up the international nature of such waters.

Known as freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPs, such trips also regularly take place in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Ensign Grayson Sigler scans the horizon while standing watch as the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain conducts freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan Strait Wednesday. The destroyer Curtis Wilbur also transited the strait. (MC2 Markus Castaneda/Navy via AP)

In late December, McCain and its fellow guided-missile destroyer Curtis Wilbur made a similar trip off Taiwan, which caused Chinese authorities to dub the FONOP a “show of force” and a provocation that “sent the wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence forces’ and seriously endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait area,” the Associated Press reported on Dec. 31.

Last year also saw the Navy conduct FONOPs off Russia and Venezuela to back up similar contentions about accessibility of international waters.

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