US Warship Transits Through Taiwan Strait for First Time Under Biden

February 4, 2021 Updated: February 4, 2021

A U.S. warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 4, marking the first such operation during the Biden administration.

The USS McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, made a routine transit in the narrow waterway between Taiwan and China in accordance with international law, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it said.

The maneuver came as the Chinese regime escalated its rhetoric and military pressure toward Taiwan in the days after President Joe Biden took office.

On the first weekend of Biden’s presidency, China made its largest-scale military incursions into the island’s air defense zone—13 military aircraft flew over Taiwan’s southwest waters on Jan. 23, and another 15 military aircraft made a similar incursion the next day.

The United States, in response, criticized Beijing’s military activities and reaffirmed its commitment to Taiwan, which it described as “rock solid.”

The United States, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is the island’s most important international backer and supplier of weapons.

Chinese aircraft incursions near Taiwan have since been seen almost on a daily basis for the past few months, according to the island’s defense ministry.

The Chinese regime considers Taiwan a part of its territory, even though the island has been governed as a distinct entity for more than seven decades.

Beijing has also vowed to retake Taiwan by military force if necessary. It views U.S. military transits of the Taiwan Strait as provocations, despite the waterway being deemed as open to all countries for transit under international law.

The last U.S. transit occurred on New Year’s Eve when the McCain and a second destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, went through the strait, according to U.S. Navy statements.

U.S. warships transited the waterway 13 times in 2020, according to the U.S. Seventh Fleet, the most since 12 such transits in 2016, the final year of former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, at a regular briefing on Feb. 4, said the regime closely monitored the warship and would continue to be on “high alert.”

Beijing was “ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time,” and will “resolutely safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wang added.

During the incursions on the weekend of Jan. 23, Chinese bombers and fighter jets simulated missile attacks on a U.S. aircraft carrier that was in nearby waterways, according to a recent Financial Times report, citing people familiar with U.S. intelligence.

On Jan. 23, a U.S. carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the disputed South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas.” The U.S. military has steadily increased its activities there in recent years as China asserts its territorial claims in the area in conflict with neighboring countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The U.S. military criticized the Chinese military flights as “destabilizing and aggressive,” but said they posed no threat to the aircraft carrier group.

The Chinese military later announced it would conduct military drills in the South China Sea between Jan. 27 to Jan. 30.

Chinese state-run Global Times reported on Jan. 24 that Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, guided-missile destroyer Shenzhen, destroyer Wuhan, and guided-missile frigate Hengyang were to perform exercises in the South China Sea.

Frank Fang, Reuters, and CNN Wire contributed to this report.