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U.S. destroyer, cargo ship pass through Taiwan Strait

By Allen Cone
U.S. destroyer, cargo ship pass through Taiwan Strait
The USS Stethem, a guided missile destroyer, is docked at Busan, South Korea, after a bilateral exercise with the Asian nation. Photo courtesy USS Stethem/Facebook

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has dispatched a guided-missile destroyer and cargo ship through the Taiwan Strait in what the Navy has referred to as a "routine" transit but opposed by China.

On Sunday and Monday, the USS Robert Stethem, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the USNS Cesar Chavez, a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship, passed through the 80-mile international waterway that separates the self-ruled democratic island from the communist mainland, the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Taiwan military confirmed. The destroyer and supply shift left the Taiwan Strait early Tuesday.

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"USS Stethem [DDG 63] and USNS Cesar Chavez [T-AKE-14} conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Feb. 25 (local time), in accordance with international law," Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said in a statement to USNI News. "The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows."

China's People's Liberation Army Navy dispatched warships to monitor the U.S. ships, Business Insider reported.

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In January, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage of guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell alongside the USNS Walter S. Diehl fleet oiler "provocative behavior" and "threatening the safety" of those nearby.

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Taiwan's government was aware of the transit. Defense Minister Yen De-fa said the situation in the region remained peaceful and stable, Focus Taiwan News Channel reported.

This is the fourth time paired U.S. ships have passed through the strait since October.

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In October, the USS Curtis Wilbur and guideded cruiser USS Antietam conducted a strait transit. And in November, the destroyer USS Stockdale and oiler USNS Pecos passed through.

Also, destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed through the Taiwan Strait in July 2018.

Earlier this month, two U.S. warships also sailed near China's contested man-made islands in the South China Sea -- islands the Chinese military has fortified with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles last year.

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The United States and China have been conducting trade negotiations.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he would delay a planned tariff increase on $200 billion in Chinese goods for more times for trade talks.

Trump is in Southeast Asia for a summit Wednesday and Thursday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is also off coast of Vietnam this week.

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