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US destroyer performs 1st strait transit since Taiwan election

Naval vessel's passage comes during US congressional delegation visit

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 USS John Finn (DDG 113). (Huntington Ingalls Industries photo)

 USS John Finn (DDG 113). (Huntington Ingalls Industries photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As a delegation of U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan, a U.S. Navy destroyer conducted the first transit of the Taiwan Strait this year.

The U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113) "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit" on Wednesday (Jan. 24) through "waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law." It said the ship navigated through a "corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state."

The Seventh Fleet said the warship's passage "demonstrates the United States' commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle." The fleet stressed that no international community member should be "intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms."

The "United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows," the Seventh Fleet said.

This marks the first passage of a U.S. warship through the Taiwan Strait since Nov. 1, when the USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) and Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341) passed through.

Representative Ami Bera and Representative Mario Díaz Balart, co-chairs of the congressional Taiwan Caucus, started a three-day visit to Taiwan on Wednesday. This is the first visit by U.S. lawmakers since elections were held on Jan. 13.

On Wednesday evening, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) issued a statement acknowledging that a U.S. destroyer had sailed through the Taiwan Strait from north to south. The MND said it monitored the transit.

Meanwhile, a Chinese Eastern Theater Command spokesperson said the passage was "openly hyped" up, reported Reuters. The spokesperson added, "Recently, the U.S. military has frequently carried out provocative acts and maliciously undermined regional peace and stability. The troops in the theater are on high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty."