The guided-missile destroyer Ralph Johnson conducted a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait Saturday — a move the Chinese government labeled “provocative.”
The destroyer, which changed homeports from Everett, Washington, to Yokosuka, Japa,n in October, completed the transit in accordance with international law.
“The ship is transiting through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The People’s Daily Online, a state-run Chinese news outlet, reported China’s People’s Liberation Army characterized the transit as “provocative” and said it “aims to embolden Taiwan separatist forces.”
The People’s Daily Online story cited People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command spokesperson Sr. Col. Shi Yi, who described the transit as “hypocritical and futile.”
The comments come days following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has responded similarly to previous transits of U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait. In November, China said the destroyer Milius’ transit through the Taiwan Strait was impairing regional stability and peace.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, U.S. Navy ships have been “flexing muscle and stirring up trouble in the Taiwan Strait repeatedly in the name of freedom of navigation.”
The U.S. has maintained strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan for decades, although President Joe Biden said in October that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attacked. Even so, the White House later said that official policy remained unaltered.