U.S. Navy Returns to Taiwan Strait for First Time Since Pelosi's Visit
But this time, without any pushback from Beijing
On Sunday, U.S. warships made a transit of the Taiwan Strait for the first time since the visit of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taipei in early August.
Pelosi's diplomatic stopover drew furious rhetoric from Beijing, along with missile test launches, mass naval exercises and warplane flights. By comparison, the transit of two U.S. Navy cruisers through the strait this weekend drew a relatively muted response - less even than China's typical pushback on American freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs).
USS Antietam and USS Chancellersville were assigned to this transit, and 7th Fleet emphasized that they passed through "waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply" with the intent to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a "free and open Indo-Pacific."
The PLA responded in a brief statement that it "conducted security tracking and monitoring of the U.S. warships' passage in the whole course" and had all of their movements "under control" throughout. China's foreign ministry issued no formal response - a departure from the usual practice of condemnation.
The Global Times, the most overtly nationalistic branch of China's state media, dismissed Antietam and Chancellorsville as "old ships" and suggested that their presence was not an issue. "As long as the US vessels follow the rules of 'innocent passage' to keep low profile and pose no harm, turn off weapons and fire-control radar system, and bring no actual threat to China's security, the PLA would just follow and monitor," Global Times wrote.
The U.S. Navy is all too aware of the age of the Ticonderoga class, and it wants to decommission all of them by 2027 - if Congress will allow it.