A US Navy guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian patrol frigate steamed through the Taiwan Strait Tuesday, the first combined transit by the two countries in nearly a year.
The destroyer USS Higgins and the Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver passed northeast from the South China Sea into the East China Sea over 16 hours, said 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Mark Langford Stars and Stripes via email on Wednesday.
“The ships were traversing a corridor in the strait that lies beyond the territorial sea of a coastal state,” Langford said in a press release Wednesday. “The cross-strait transit of Higgins and Vancouver demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The transit was not in response to any specific event, according to Langford, who added that the strait has been used by US Navy ships to travel between the two seas “for many years.”
However, the two ships passed through the straits just days after President Joe Biden announced for the second time this year that US troops would help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion or “unprecedented attack”. He made the comments during an interview aired by 60 Minutes on Sunday.
Beijing views Taiwan, a self-governing democracy since seceding from China in 1949, as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.
The Navy has sent warships through the 110-mile canal separating Taiwan from mainland China about once a month for the past two years, actions that regularly draw criticism from Beijing.
According to a press release from China’s defense ministry on Tuesday, Chinese naval and air forces “monitored the entire process.”
“The troops in the theater of war are always on high alert, resolutely resisting all threats and provocations, and resolutely defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for China’s Eastern Command, said in the release.
Langford gave no details, but said in his email that US ships and aircraft in the region “routinely interact with foreign warships” and that any interactions with foreign forces “conform to international standards” and did not affect the operation.
The voyage was the second joint operation between U.S. and Canadian warships since October 2021, when the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey and Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg conducted the transit, Langford told Stars and Stripes. It was the first such trip for the Higgins in “recent history,” he said.
The Navy last sent warships — the guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville — through the Straits on August 28. The 7th Fleet normally sends a single destroyer through the waterway, so the transit of the two cruisers was a first in recent history. The 7th Fleet then narrated Stars and Stripes.