The guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey steams through the Taiwan Strait on May 8, 2024.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey steams through the Taiwan Strait on May 8, 2024. (U.S. Navy)

China’s military labeled a U.S. guided-missile destroyer’s Wednesday trip through the Taiwan Strait as “provocative” and dispatched aircraft and ships in response, state media reported.

The USS Halsey’s passage through the 110-mile-wide channel that separates mainland China from Taiwan “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release that night.

“No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms,” the Navy said in its release. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The U.S. routinely sends warships and, less frequently, aircraft, through the strait in transits it usually describes as a routine means of traveling between the South China Sea and East China Sea.

“U.S. ships use the Taiwan Strait to transit between the two and have done so for many years,” 7th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Jamie Moroney told Stars and Stripes in an email Thursday.

The transit was routine and was not in response to any specific event, she said.

China considers Taiwan, a functionally democratic island, to be a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. It typically condemns Navy trips through the waterway as aggressive and destabilizing for the region.

Within an hour of the announcement, Beijing issued its statement on the Halsey’s transit. Naval Senior Capt. Li Xi “slammed the U.S.’s provocative move,” the state-sponsored China Military Online wrote just after midnight Thursday.

China’s Eastern Theater Command “organized naval and air forces” to monitor the Halsey’s passage and said 7th Fleet had “publicly hyped” the situation, it wrote Wednesday in a post to its official Weibo account.

Moroney said “all interactions with foreign military forces during the transit were consistent with international norms and did not impact the operation.”

The transit comes just as Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up a five-day tour of Europe, where he’s visited France, Serbia and Hungary to strengthen ties.

He arrived in Hungary late Wednesday night, The Associated Press reported that day.

The Halsey’s passage through the strait is at least the third for a U.S. destroyer this year. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn made the last two announced transits on Jan. 24 and March 5, evoking similar responses from Beijing.

A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon made its own trip through the Taiwan Strait on April 17. China’s Eastern Theater Command at the time said it scrambled fighter jets to monitor the surveillance aircraft’s movements.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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