US Navy destroyer transits the Taiwan Strait

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer transited the Taiwan Strait today, February 26, and turned on its Automated Ship Identification System (AIS) – a clear signal that the US military wanted everybody to be aware of the ship’s presence in the key waterway.

Chinese think tank South China Sea Probing Initiative was first to announce the transit in a Tweet this morning, noting that the “USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) is transiting the #TaiwanStrait, with an[sic] USN EP-3E providing ISR support from the south.”

Some analysts believe that the Ralph Johnson turned on the AIS signal to convey the US Navy’s support for Taiwan, noting that two most recent transits were not voluntarily publicized. On December 15, 2021, the US destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90), and on January 22, 2022, the USS Dewey (DDG 105) transited the Taiwan Strait with the ship identification systems turned off.

The US Navy confirmed the passage this afternoon, announcing that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson was conducting a “routine transit through international waters.”

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” a US Navy 7th Fleet spokesperson said.

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