A U.S. Navy destroyer armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles has sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait in a solo mission that comes amid intensifying tensions between China and Taiwan.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan led the procession and escorted the guided missile destroyer USS Stethem into the South China Sea on Wednesday.
“As a forward deployed forward presence, this mission allows the Reagan and Stethem to demonstrate that the United States and our allies will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen praised the ship’s passage through the strait.
“It’s a good thing that the Reagan took a transit through the Taiwan Strait just after the opening of the Taiwan Strait bridge and shows their high military readiness,” Tsai said according to the state-run China News Service.
The Reagan also passed through the waters linking Japan and South Korea earlier this week. China reacted strongly to the passage, saying the U.S. effort was a threat to regional peace and stability.
“It demonstrates the U.S. military’s intention to send a message of establishing a military base on the Taiwan side of the Taiwan strait, which will cause further instability and chaos in the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula,” said a senior Chinese military officer cited by state news agency Xinhua.