Report finds US warships made 92 transits through Taiwan Strait since 2007

The South China Morning Post discloses US warships’ Taiwan Strait trips over the years

USS Stethem (DDG 63 in the East China Sea

USS Stethem (DDG 63 in the East China Sea (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The South China Morning Post reported on Friday (May 3) that the United States warships have made 92 trips in total through the Taiwan Strait for the past 12 years.

The transits have usually been received in Taiwan as a sign of support from the U.S. in the face of Chinese aggression, and often prompted China’s protests.

Last month, two U.S. Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait to exercise freedom of navigation, making it the fourth such voyage this year. China warned against such “provocative actions” while Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reassures Taiwanese citizens to not be alarmed as it was part of the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The report showed that US warship transits peaked in 2016, reaching 12 times within that year, followed by 11 times in 2013 and 2015. The South China Morning Post reported that the United States at the time did not announce the transits despite the heightened frequency.

James Kraska, a US Naval War College professor, told the Post that by not announcing the transits, the United States sought to ensure Beijing that these trips are normal operations rather than “antagonizing.”

According to Richard W. Hu’s interview with the paper, the United States’ announcement of the transits bears more weight than the frequency, setting apart political reasons from logistical reasons.

Chatham House associate fellow Bill Hayton said in the report that Beijing’s protests and claims of jurisdiction over the waters would, in fact, push Washington to make more transits through the Taiwan Strait. And such transits are usually unknown unless China protests about them, according to Hayton.

Chinese scholar Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, told the South China Morning Post that he doesn’t think the transits bring much pressure on China as it has never changed its perspective nor behavior on the Taiwan issue.