The guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn sails through the Taiwan Strait, March 10, 2021.

The guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn sails through the Taiwan Strait, March 10, 2021. (Jason Waite/U.S. Navy)

The USS John Finn on Tuesday completed the second reported transit of the Taiwan Strait by a U.S. warship so far this year.

The guided-missile destroyer made a south-to-north passage, a routine transit of the 110-mile-wide waterway separating mainland China from self-governing Taiwan, according to a 7th Fleet news release that afternoon.

Navy ships use the strait to move between the East and South China seas. The transit occurred in a corridor where “all nations enjoy high-seas freedoms of navigation, overflight, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea,” according to the release.

China asserts sovereignty over Taiwan as a breakaway province that must eventually reunite with the motherland. It also claims jurisdiction over the strait, although even warships have the right of innocent passage in territorial waters under the international law of the sea.

On Jan. 24, the John Finn made the first Taiwan Strait passage of the year by an American naval vessel.

China’s Eastern Theater Command condemned the destroyer’s January transit as provocative in a news release on the China Military website. No statement about Tuesday’s passage was immediately available.

U.S. military ships and aircraft transited the strait at least 11 times last year, a slight increase over nine in 2022.

The John Finn’s transit took place the same day that Chinese coast guard vessels and accompanying ships blocked and maneuvered against two Philippine coast guard ships in the South China Sea, according to The Associated Press.

The confrontation resulted in a minor collision between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships, said the report citing Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela.

He did not identify the location, but Philippine and Chinese coast guard ships have squared off over Philippine attempts to resupply an outpost at Second Thomas Shoal, west of the Philippine island of Palawan.

The U.S. and Philippine navies and air forces held a series of drills together last month in the South China Sea.

In Australia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is scheduled to convene in Melbourne, where territorial disputes are expected to be part of the agenda, according to AP.

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Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.

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