US sails warship near Taiwan ahead of presidential inauguration

Taiwan has accused China of intimidation, as the mainland and US stepped up manoeuvres in recent weeks.

USS McCampbell
The US Navy vessel USS McCampbell, pictured at a defence show in Asia, travelled through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday [File: Stephen Morrison/EPA]

The United States’s navy said on Thursday it had sailed a guided-missile destroyer through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a week before Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration for a second term as president.

China, which considers Taiwan its territory, has been angered by the Trump administration’s strong support for the island and accusations over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Pacific Fleet, in a statement on its Facebook page, said the USS McCampbell had travelled through the narrow strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China on Wednesday, showing pictures of the ship under way.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the ship had sailed south on what it termed an “ordinary mission”, adding it was continuing in that direction.

Landslide victory

Tsai, who will be sworn in for her second and final term next Wednesday, was re-elected by a landslide in January, vowing to defend Taiwan’s democracy and stand up to China.

China and the US have ramped up military activities near Taiwan in recent months, with the US sailing regularly through the Taiwan Strait, and China conducting air force drills near the island.

Last Friday, Taiwan said a Chinese air force Y-8 aircraft had briefly crossed into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, prompting Taiwan jets to warn it to leave.

China operates the Y-8 as a transport and early warning and electronic warfare aircraft.

Taiwan has denounced the Chinese drills as attempts at intimidation and has told Beijing it should focus its efforts on fighting the coronavirus rather than menacing the island.

China considers Tsai to be a separatist, charges she strongly denies.

Late next week, China will open its delayed annual meeting of parliament, where it is expected to release its defence budget for the year, a number closely watched around the region as President Xi Jinping oversees a military modernisation plan.

Source: Reuters