Ratcheting up tensions with Beijing, the US sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the second such transit through the sensitive waterway this month.
The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the guided-missile destroyers USS John McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur made the provocative passage on December 31st. Beijing denounced the maneuver and said Chinese vessels tailed the US warships as they left the Strait.
The maneuver is the 13th US military operation in the Taiwan Strait this year. According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative, that is the most US transits through the sensitive waterway in a single year in over a decade. The previous high was in 2016 when the US conducted 12 such operations.
With US-China relations rapidly deteriorating, the Trump administration has stepped up support for Taiwan through arms sales and increased informal diplomatic ties. The massive $2.3 trillion spending bill President Trump signed earlier this week included an act that reaffirms US support and weapons sales to Taiwan.