Two US warships conducted a transit of the Taiwan Strait on Monday. The cruiser USS Antietam, and destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed through the strait to demonstrate the US commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a US military spokesman. This was the second Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercise conducted by US naval forces in the Taiwan Strait over the past three months. Chinese warships shadowed Antietam and Wilbur during the voyage, maintaining a safe distance, and not making any moves that could be considered provocative.
The US move is likely to aggravate the already high tensions between the United States and China. Along with the ongoing trade war, US Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Western Pacific have irritated Beijing. By extending the exercises to include the Taiwan Strait, the Trump administration is also sending a message that its support of Taiwan remains unchanged. This could be difficult for Beijing to stomach. The People’s Republic of China still regards Taiwan as a ‘lost province’ of sorts to eventually be reunified with the mainland. China has vowed to reclaim Taiwan at some point, and through the use of force if necessary.