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US destroyer powers through Taiwan Strait, PLA cries foul

Guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson transited through Taiwan Strait on Tuesday

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USS Sampson transits Taiwan Strait. (Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet photo)

USS Sampson transits Taiwan Strait. (Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer patrolled the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday (April 26), quickly drawing criticism from China's military.

The U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet on Tuesday announced that Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer the USS Sampson (DDG 102) had "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit" that day "through international waters in accordance with international law." The Seventh Fleet emphasized that the warship's passage "demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific."

The statement added that "The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows." The Sampson is part of Destroyer Squadron 21 and is participating in a carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) currently operating in the Philippine Sea.

The strike group conducted joint exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in the Sea of Japan on April 13 and 14. The naval force carried out further maneuvers with the JMSDF in the Philippine Sea and East China Sea on April 18.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday (April 27) stated that during the ship's northward journey through the strait, the military used joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to monitor movements at sea and in the air around Taiwan and described the situation as normal.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command claimed that it had monitored the ship's movements and issued a warning. It then issued a statement in which it accused the U.S. of frequently carrying out "such provocative actions," which it alleged send "wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces" and undermine the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.

This is the first transit by a U.S. warship in the Taiwan Strait since Feb. 26, when the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) cruised through the strait. China's Eastern Theatre Command also condemned that ship's passage as a "provocative act."