Navy sends another guided-missile destroyer through contentious Taiwan Strait

Petty Officer 2nd Class Pavel Gorski, a fire controlman from St. Petersburg, Fla., writes in a watch log as the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur passes through the Taiwan Strait, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 25, 2021

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – The USS Curtis Wilbur sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the second time this month the Navy has sent a warship through the contentious waterway.

The guided-missile destroyer, homeported in Yokosuka, made the trip to “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said in the statement Thursday.

The 110-mile-wide strait separates mainland China from self-governed Taiwan. Beijing considers reunification a top priority and regularly protests Taiwan Strait transits, claiming foreign vessels must first ask permission before passing through.

However, the strait is considered an open waterway under international law, Keiley said.

“The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows," he said in the statement.

The Curtis Wilbur’s trip came less than three weeks after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain steamed through the strait on Feb. 4.

After that passage – the first under President Joe Biden’s administration – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters that Beijing hopes “the US side will play a constructive role for regional peace and stability, rather than the opposite.

“China will continue to stay on high alert and is ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time and will resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wang said during a press conference on Feb. 4.

Before this month, the most recent Taiwan Strait transit happened on Dec. 31, marking the Navy's 13th passage through the waterway in 2020. That trip broke the service's prior record, set in 2016, of 12 Taiwan Strait transits in a single year.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos