CNN's article US Vice President Pence set to inflame China tensions: 'We will not be intimidated' describes an upcoming speech by US VP Pence and the existence of a proposed military exercise in November.

The US Navy's Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China and to demonstrate the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions, according to several US defense officials.

The draft proposal from the Navy is recommending the US Pacific Fleet conduct a series of operations during a single week in November.

The goal is to carry out a highly focused and concentrated set of exercises involving US warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the US can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts.

CNN's article US Navy proposing major show of force to warn China describes the existence of a proposal, and an upcoming speech by US VP Pence.

The plan suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China's territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters. The proposal means US ships and aircraft would operate close to Chinese forces. The defense officials emphasized that there is no intention to engage in combat with the Chinese.

While the US military carries out these types of operations throughout the year, the proposal being circulated calls for several missions to take place in just a few days.

While one official described it as "just an idea," it is far enough along that there is a classified operational name attached to the proposal, which is circulating at several levels of the military. Officials would not confirm the name of the potential operation.

Here I would like to ask for some background. I believe that a US aircraft carrier and associated ships passed through the Taiwan Strait in 1958. Besides that, has there been any overt military activity in the strait excluding anything by Taiwan or China?

  • Does the Hainan Island Incident in 2001 count? Technically this was in the South China Sea rather than in the Taiwan Strait, and while it was a military activity it wasn't a "show of force" per se. Oct 4, 2018 at 12:05
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    What other nations have an interest in the area and the ability to project sea power?
    – MCW
    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:31
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    @MarkWallace - both Japan and Singapore have participated in transits of the South China Sea in collaboration with the US. Both clearly have an interest in continued freedom of navigation through the area for trade.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 4, 2018 at 14:42
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    @MarkC.Wallace I'm just interested in the instances of this happening, thanks!
    – uhoh
    Oct 4, 2018 at 16:42
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    Japan's limitation is constitutional; I'm pretty sure that power projection is forbidden to the self-defense force.
    – MCW
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


There have been many such incidents.

Perhaps the most notable example is President Clinton's deployment of the Nimitz battle group during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996. This was in response to China's attempt to intimidate Taiwan with "missile tests"; @Carduus has gone into more details on this incident. This was far from the only time, however.

In 2007, the Kitty Hawk strike group similarly transited through the Taiwan Strait as a rebuke to China, which had previously denied it entry to Hong Kong. This back and forth was part of a chain of escalating tensions related to the Bush Administration's sale of weapons to Taiwan and meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Most recently, just a few months ago Trump dispatched two destroyers through the Taiwan Strait over Chinese drills in the region. As Reuters noted in that article, it was the first time in only "about a year" - hardly a rare event on a historical timescale of decades. Though, of course, this was not on the same level as a carrier transit, which some had suggested for this latest operation.

In addition to the US Navy, in 2001 Australia also sent a squadron of ships through the Taiwan Strait. It was widely considered a response on behalf of the United States to the Hainan Incident a couple of weeks earlier. As such, it was both a military and diplomatic show of force.


Only once. Just before Taiwanese elections in 1996, China held several missile tests into the Taiwan Strait, ostensibly to intimidate the Taiwanese into making more China-friendly votes. In response, President Clinton deployed the Nimitz and the Independence as a show of solidarity. However, China-US relations have normalized in the past 20 years, and US leaders have been unwilling to stick up for Taiwan and snub China.

  • Thank you for your answer! Checking en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Nimitz#1990s it says "On 27 November 1995, Nimitz deployed to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf with Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9). In March 1996, it patrolled the waters off Taiwan amid missile tests conducted by the Chinese in the area, becoming the first American warship to pass through the Taiwan Strait since 1976." Any idea what that was in 1976?
    – uhoh
    Oct 4, 2018 at 16:32
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    That was when the USA formally acknowledged Taiwan's sovereignty, and thus there was a Taiwan for the US ships to pass.
    – Carduus
    Oct 4, 2018 at 17:25
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    To "pass through the Taiwan Strait" requires only that the geographic feature (the straight) exists, and using the name "Taiwan Strait" would be okay even if it wasn't always called that. It's a strange wording in the Wikipedia article but that's Wikipedia. Thanks!
    – uhoh
    Oct 4, 2018 at 17:35

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