Despite Eyes on Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Navy Still Has China in Mind

April 26, 2022 Topic: Navy Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: U.S. NavyUSS SampsonChinaTaiwanTaiwan Strait

Despite Eyes on Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Navy Still Has China in Mind

Sailing a ship through the Taiwan Strait is a stark reminder that the U.S. Navy hasn’t forgotten about the small Asian democracy living in the shadow of China.

 

A recently released statement from the U.S. Seventh Fleet is indicative of the Navy’s broader global presence.

In a statement posted online, the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet announced that one of its destroyers passed through the Taiwan Strait. The statement reads as follows:

 

"The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 26 (local time) through international waters in accordance with international law. 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."

The USS Sampson is at sea with the USS Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Lincoln’s carrier strike group is out on operations in the Philippine Sea.

Since World War II, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer has been the most long-lived class of ships in the U.S. Navy. They are the ships that just don’t quit.

They first entered service with the U.S. Navy at the tail end of the Cold War and have been extensively upgraded since then. Though not stealthy ships by design, the Arleigh Burkes feature many aspects that reduce their radar cross-section and help the vessels blend into background ocean “noise.”

Coupled with the powerful Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, the ships can perform several mission profiles, including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, and protect strike carriers from enemy aircraft.

Eyes on the East: China and Russia

The last time a Navy warship transited the Taiwan Strait was about two months ago. During that transit, the USS Ralph Johnson moved through the strait on February 28, just days after the eruption of conflict in Ukraine.

And while the conflict raging in Ukraine has captured the world’s attention, China remains the pacing threat for the United States and Europe. 

Though the U.S. Navy has shifted some assets throughout the Mediterranean for a more forward posture regarding the Russo-Ukrainian war, sailing a ship through the Taiwan Strait is a stark reminder that the U.S. Navy hasn’t forgotten about the small Asian democracy living in the shadow of the Chinese Communist Party.

And Beijing is watching. In tandem with allies in Europe, the United States' robust response to Russia’s invasion is sure to cause some degree of consternation in China. China likely has a sense of dread about the newly-invigorated democracies' united stance.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.

Image: Flickr U.S. Navy