When the US sailed a guided-missile destroyer through the Taiwan Strait, China’s Ministry of Defense accused the US of creating “security risks” and upsetting the balance of the strait. It also tagged the US as a “destroyer of peace” due to the activity in the disputed area.

Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command, claimed in a press statement that China could track the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold of the US 7th Fleet from the sea and the sky while it was transiting in the Taiwan Strait. In line with the occasion, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command has deployed naval and aviation units to supervise and oversee the transit of the US Destroyer.

“The frequent provocations and shows by the United States fully demonstrate that the United States is a destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and a maker of security risks in the Taiwan Strait,” said Colonel Shi Yi in a statement, adding that “The theater troops maintain high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The US conducts a routine naval presence over the 180-kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait to demonstrate support for Taiwan, a self-governing democracy disputed by China, and to uphold international law regarding the rights of passage. The Taiwan Straits are one of the most important trade routes in the world with more than $3.4 Trillion in goods passing through it each year.

TAIWAN STRAIT (April 23, 2020) Seaman Xi Chan stands on the flight deck as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) transits the Taiwan Strait during routine underway operations. (Source: Official U.S. Navy PageCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines a nation’s sovereign territorial seas as extending 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from its shore. The law also argues that as long as the ship does not engage in certain illegal activities while in transit, such as conducting weapons tests, espionage, smuggling, or seriously polluting the environment, fishing, or scientific study, the ship is not breaking any laws.

The US 7th Fleet has been quoted as saying multiple times that its passage through the contested Taiwan Strait was carried out “in accordance with international law” and also “through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state” the latter expressed an implicit assumption that China is being alluded to the statement.


The waters that are next to China’s coastline and those adjacent to Taiwan are claimed by China. In the most recent few years, they have been working to establish the entire waterway as part of their maritime borders, per the report. The government of China, which is controlled by China’s Communist Party (CCP), maintains that self-ruled Taiwan is a “breakaway province” that needs to be “reunited” with the mainland. This “reunification” should ideally take place peacefully, but this will take place by force if necessary. 

What is the Taiwan Strait?

The Taiwan Strait is a strategically important waterway that protects Taiwan and navigational freedom and basic movement for global commerce to the rest of the worldwide community. The information said that because it links the South China Sea with the East China Sea, it is a crucial passageway for transportation and business between East Asia and Southeast Asia. At its narrowest point, the Strait spans a distance of approximately 86 nautical miles.

Map of the Taiwan Strait. (Source: “The following maps were produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, unless otherwise indicated.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Aside from the maritime operation by the US, Jake Sullivan, who serves as the national security adviser to President Joe Biden, and other national security officials, are opposed to Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan because they believe it has the potential to heighten frictions in the Taiwan Strait as China has issued the US a strong warning against Pelosi’s travel. Pelosi has been known as an outspoken opponent of the Chinese government for a long time.

The Chinese government has not detailed what steps it could take; nevertheless, the foreign ministry of China declared that Beijing would take aggressive measures to react firmly and counter the supposed visit by Pelosi.

The Strait Blockade Possibility

According to a report from a media organization, officials in the Biden administration have voiced their concern about the possibility that China may engage in military measures over the next 18 months that will affect Taiwan, possibly including the naval blockades of the Taiwan Strait.  A blockade of the straits would likely provoke an armed conflict involving not just the US, but Japan, Australia, the UK and S Korea as well. Chinese control of the straits would allow them to control the flow of shipping through these waters, favoring the ships of nations friendly to them while forbidding the passage of those deemed unfriendly.  

The Chinese government may “try to move against” Taiwan within the next year and a half, according to officials from the US who spoke anonymously. The idea that China could make good on its claims of “sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait” by cutting off access to “all or part” of the critical strait was a conceivable scenario that could play out.

It is not doubtful that China will be faithful to its word to translate what they thought were “provocations” into an escalation of violence as they are now making significant advancements in their warfare and military infrastructure. Moreover, the growing tension in the disputed strait, along with the timing of the planned visit of Pelosi to Taiwan, has incensed China even more.