For the sixth time during the Biden administration, the US sailed a warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, stoking tensions with China. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur made the provocative passage on Tuesday.
In 2020, the Trump administration sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait 13 times, the highest number of such passages since at least 2007. The previous high was in 2016 when the Obama administration sent warships through the sensitive waterway 12 times.
The frequency of these passages under Biden reflects the priority the Pentagon is putting on countering China. The Pentagon recently identified China as the top “pacing threat” and “pacing challenge” facing the US military.
Another example of Biden’s focus on China is the almost-regular presence of US aircraft carrier strike groups in the Indo-Pacific region that transit the South China Sea. The USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group entered the South China Sea last week.
The USS Ronald Reagan is now in the Indian Ocean and is headed to the Middle East. According to The South China Morning Post, the US Navy said the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which is currently conducting drills near Hawaii, will head to the Indo-Pacific region later this summer to fill the void.
When asked about the significance of such deployments, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby downplayed the idea that it was meant to send a message. “I would caution you from thinking that there is some sort of specific message here, other than, I mean obviously we are focused on the Indo-Pacific and you’ve heard the secretary talk about this quite a bit,” he said on Monday.
Regardless of Kirby’s comments, the deployments clearly send a message to Beijing, as do the Taiwan Strait transits. The increased US military activity in the region in recent years has naturally led to an uptick in Chinese military activity, which the Pentagon then hypes to justify expanding its presence.