Can the “Reagan” aircraft carrier sail into the Taiwan Strait?

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Source: Guanyu great nerve

The hesitant Reagan



On August 19, the U.S. aircraft carrier “Reagan”, which had been tossing around in the East Asian waters for more than half a month, returned to the Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

Yokosuka naval base:


This aircraft carrier can be said to be the US aircraft carrier with the highest exposure rate in the whole August. It currently belongs to the seventh fleet of the United States. The fleet has a long history and its main task since its birth is to “take care of” the Asia Pacific region.

Therefore, once something happens in the Taiwan Strait, the seventh fleet will immediately come together to stir it up and demonstrate the strength of the United States. For example, during the crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 1996, the aircraft carrier “independence” of the seventh fleet sailed to the central line of the Taiwan Strait and launched a military exercise to harass China with electromagnetic interference.

In the tense situation in the Taiwan Strait caused by Pelosi’s visit some time ago, it is natural that this fleet is indispensable. Throughout the incident, the “Reagan” aircraft carrier has been swaying in the East Asian waters, and it has become a frequent visitor in the news.

However, judging from the track so far, it has been cautious in its actions. It has been operating 1000 kilometers away from the Taiwan Strait. This distance is beyond the operational radius of its carrier aircraft “Super Hornet” and does not pose a real threat.

The track of Reagan from July 30 to August 19:


This actually reflects the embarrassment of the US seventh fleet from one side:

At present, their main line-up only has one aircraft carrier and 10 aging aegis ships, and the scale is not as large as before. This is mainly because the age of the US warships is growing and the condition of the warships is aging. In addition, the US Navy is now in serious arrears of wages and does not pay much attention to the maintenance work in peacetime. Therefore, the “nesting rate” of aircraft carriers is very high. Although the 11 aircraft carriers in the United States look frightening, only half of them can be on duty all year round.

Rusty root number:


As a result, the United States Seventh Fleet, once the hegemon in East Asia, has now been surpassed by the Chinese Navy, which has developed explosively in recent years. Their hesitant track during this period of time is precisely the manifestation of this mismatch between ambition and strength.

However, no matter what the paper strength is, because the United States has been clamoring to go to the Taiwan Strait to “safeguard the freedom of navigation”, the only question we are most concerned about now is: can the aircraft carrier “Reagan” sail into the Taiwan Strait?

To understand this issue, we must first understand how the maritime areas in the Taiwan Strait are positioned in terms of sovereignty.

Mankind’s consensus on maritime rights is not as clear as that on land rights. Objectively, there are indeed many differences. After all, it is only more than 600 years since the era of great navigation. It is not in the same breath as the land civilization that has run in for thousands of years.


The most basic issue in the sea power is the positioning of the territorial sea. The concept of “territorial sea” did not exist at the beginning, and its formation actually experienced a long period of twists and turns.

How did the territorial sea come from?



In ancient times, there were no restrictions on sailing at sea, as long as you don’t land on the land of other countries. However, the situation changed after ships generally possessed guns.

Ships equipped with guns can threaten your coastal territory even if they do not touch the shore. It means that one day a warship will come to the sea and shoot at the residents on the shore. Of course, the artillery on the shore can also greet the passing ships at any time. You are waving your sails and singing songs. Suddenly, a shell comes from the shore and makes a hole in your ship. It is impossible to live this life.


Over time, everyone felt that it was still necessary to establish a rule and not to hurt each other so much. Thus, in the 17th century, a Dutch jurist took the lead in proposing that the power of a land state was limited to the range of its artillery. This theory is actually an ocean version of “the truth is only within the range of the cannon”.


Although such a rule is simple and crude, it is particularly effective in the jungle world, so it was quickly recognized by the maritime powers. In the following years, various countries signed treaties and laws one after another according to this rule, stipulating that they could not sail into the sea area within the range of artillery. If they “came uninvited”, they deserved to be beaten.

After the rules are settled, the next step is to determine how far the “cannon range” is.

In 1782, the Italian Galliani suggested that the standard should be set at 3 nautical miles according to the range of artillery at that time. This proposal was adopted by many countries and gradually formed a consensus. Later, the United States issued a declaration of Neutrality during the French Revolution in 1793. In this declaration, the United States publicly announced its territorial sea range of 3 nautical miles, which was also the first country in the world to declare its territorial sea range of 3 nautical miles.


However, with the passage of time, the range of various weapons has become longer and longer. For most coastal countries, the distance of 3 nautical miles is no longer enough to ensure coastal security. Have countries kept pace with the times and revised the regulations on the scope of territorial waters? At this time, differences appeared.

For most coastal countries, of course, they hope that the scope of their territorial waters will be larger, so that they will be safer. However, as far as the maritime powers are concerned, the smaller the territorial waters of each country, the better. In this way, they can freely drive to the coastal countries to show off their prowess.


As a result, after entering the 20th century, the global consensus on territorial waters became chaotic again.

The Hague Agreement of 1930 reserved the consensus on the territorial sea line of 3 nautical miles, but at the same time, many countries announced their own territorial sea range. For example, the territorial sea line announced by the Soviet Union is 12 nautical miles, and Chile even announced that 200 nautical miles is its own territory (for fear of others robbing its fish).

Because there is no consensus, we can only muddle along. Whether I respect or not respect your opinions depends mainly on my mood and strength. For example, no one dares to challenge the 12 nautical miles of the Soviet Union, while no one takes the 200 nautical miles of Chile seriously.


Then, how should the global consensus on sea power rules be gradually reached? Is it possible to hold a meeting to discuss it?

If meetings were useful, mankind would not have fought two world wars in a row in half a century. The disputes over the territorial sea line of various countries have been drawn from the Hague Agreement in 1930 to the United Nations Conference on oceans in 1958, but they were unable to reach a conclusion.

In fact, the consensus of the jungle world has never been negotiated. It must be a series of major events in reality, and then let everyone see a series of results. Only in this way can we promote the formation of some consensus.


At that time, if a country in the world, whose strength seems to be similar to that of most ordinary countries, could stand up and declare a territorial sea line different from that advocated by the great powers, then conflict with the great powers, and finally maintain this line, then the territorial sea line announced by him would have a good chance to become a broad consensus.

Is it just that there is such an iron headed country in the world?

Indeed, it is the newly established people’s Republic of China.

At that time, new China was not qualified to participate in the United Nations Conference, so the issue of territorial sea line could only be discussed at the meeting behind closed doors.

As we all know, 3 nautical miles was the default rule in the world at that time, but 3 nautical miles was a bit narrow for China. China has a long coastline (including islands) of 32000 kilometers. If the territorial sea is only 3 nautical miles, it will not bring us a sense of security. Moreover, if we really calculate it by 3 nautical miles, the Bohai Sea can not even be regarded as China’s territorial sea.


If it is set at 12 nautical miles, it can not only effectively guarantee the safety of China’s coastal areas, but also divide the entire Bohai Sea into the inland sea. In addition, the range of China’s coastal defense guns at that time can indeed cover the area of 12 nautical miles, so it is a very ideal choice.

However, the legal experts at the meeting also pointed out that since the Hague Agreement stipulates 3 nautical miles, and the United Nations Conference has not reached a new consensus, if we declare 12 nautical miles ourselves, the United States and the United States will definitely oppose it, and there may be a war.


People who are now accustomed to a peaceful environment can hardly understand the atmosphere at that time. For the world at that time, fighting was a common thing. The threat of national war and even world war has been hanging over everyone’s head. Therefore, the war risks mentioned by the experts are real.

However, Chairman Mao finally made the following summary:

“The Hague Agreement is not an imperial edict, nor can it be handled according to the will of the United States, Britain and other countries. It is beneficial for us to expand our territorial sea line. Judging from all aspects, a war cannot be fought for a while. We are unwilling to fight, and imperialism wants to fight that way? I don’t think so. It must be fought. We are not afraid of it. We have already had a fight in North Korea, but we must be prepared.”

Therefore, on September 4, 1958, more than four months after the conclusion of the United Nations Ocean Conference, China officially announced that its territorial sea was 12 nautical miles wide.


Looking back now, it can be said that China chose this time point to announce the territorial sea range is “bold and courageous” because it was during the artillery battle in Kinmen at that time, and not only the national army but also the US military were facing the PLA at sea.

The United States never expected that China would challenge its global rules at this time. After they saw China’s announcement, they really angrily expressed strong opposition and insisted on recognizing only the territorial sea area of 3 nautical miles. The Kuomintang also echoed.

On September 7, US warships escorted KMT warships to Kinmen, entering China’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea. On that day, the people’s Liberation Army on the shore did not fire.

On September 8, the US warship that felt that China’s territorial sea announcement was just a “bluff” once again escorted the Chinese warships into the liaoluo Bay of Kinmen, intending to confirm that “China’s 12 nautical mile claim has no practical effect”. However, this time, the PLA resolutely fired its artillery.


According to the instructions of the central authorities, it is necessary to report to the central authorities and wait for approval before firing on the US military, but it is not necessary to attack the national army. Therefore, the people’s Liberation Army first aimed at the Kuomintang warships. After the fire was covered, the Kuomintang warships sank and were injured. The injured warships rushed to the US warships escorting nearby for help.

The people’s Liberation Army was ready for the final decisive battle.

After receiving the distress signal, the US warship serving as the escort mission also responded immediately: it turned around and retreated collectively.

In this way, the US military suddenly withdrew from the 12 nautical mile territorial sea claimed by China without turning back, leaving the national army alone to sway in the waves.


This behavior of the US military surprised everyone. Chiang Kai Shek probably could not accept this reality. On the 11th, he again organized a fleet to set out for Kinmen and continued to ask the US military for escort. However, the US military simply agreed.

So the “United States and Chiang Kai Shek allied forces” once again entered the waters of Kinmen. The PLA’s response measures are also the old way, and it is decisive to shoot at the National Army! When the National Army turned its expectant eyes to the US Army, the US army withdrew again!


The Americans voluntarily withdrew from the 12 nautical miles after hearing the gunfire twice in a row. We don’t know what they think. Anyway, this objectively tells the world that the United States recognizes that China’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea line is effective.

It can be said that as the world’s largest maritime power, the United States personally recited China’s 12 nautical mile proposition by selling its teammates during the Golden Gate artillery battle. Since then, more and more countries have followed suit and announced the 12 nautical mile territorial sea rules. Although the disputes over the territorial sea continued for a long time, the 12 nautical mile rule has become the general trend.

The protracted wrangling lasted until 1982, when most countries in the world finally reached a consensus on the territorial sea range of 12 nautical miles and adopted the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea on December 10 of that year. China ratified the Convention in 1996 and entered into force for China. At present, more than 150 countries in the world have signed the Convention, which makes the world have a basic consensus on the management of the oceans.

What are the “offshore sites”?



According to UNCLOS, the marine area can be divided into the following parts from the perspective of Rights:

Inland sea, territorial sea, adjacent zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf jurisdiction area and high seas.


There is a law in these parts: from the inside to the outside, sovereignty diminishes.

First, the inland sea refers to the sea area between the baseline of the territorial sea (generally the low tide line of the mainland or island coast) and the coastline; In addition, if a certain sea area is surrounded by continents or islands, but there are narrow waterways or Straits connected with the ocean, then this sea area is also considered as an inland sea. China has three relatively large inland seas, namely, Bohai Sea, Xisha inland water and Qiongzhou Strait.


The inland sea enjoys complete sovereignty and is equivalent to territory. Therefore, for the inland sea, any foreign ships are “no admittance unless invited”.

Is the Taiwan Strait an inland sea?

Although the Taiwan Strait is also between China’s territory, because the width of the Strait is large, the narrowest part is 130 kilometers wide and the widest part is more than 300 kilometers wide, so the area is generally not considered as a closed Bay, and therefore is not defined as an inland sea. Therefore, the maritime area in the Taiwan Strait should be calculated from the baseline of the territorial sea of the mainland and Taiwan Province.


According to the provisions of the Convention on the law of the sea, the sea area extending 12 nautical miles from the baseline of the territorial sea is the territorial sea of that country. The territorial sea is the “maritime territory” of a country, and the laws of that country should be observed in this area.

However, there are obvious differences in rights between territorial waters and territories.

The rule of territory is “no admittance unless invited”: no one is allowed to enter without my permission.

However, unlike the territorial sea, it allows foreign ships to pass through, which is also to take into account the actual situation of maritime navigation. However, this “passage” must be continuous and requires “innocent passage”. If it is a submersible, it must float.

Therefore, ships sailing at sea have the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea of other countries.

Then there is a question here: can military ships also enjoy this “innocent passage right” in the territorial waters of other countries?

Different countries have different rules on this issue. China does not allow foreign military vessels to pass through the territorial sea, no matter whether it is “innocent passage”.

Therefore, no foreign warship is allowed to enter China’s territorial waters without permission.


In addition, it should be noted that the airspace above the territorial sea is the territorial airspace. Although foreign ships can pass through the territorial sea of other countries without harm, aircraft cannot enter the territorial airspace of that country.

The area extending 12 nautical miles beyond the territorial sea is the adjacent area. The adjacent zone can be understood as a buffer zone outside the territorial sea, and the state can exercise jurisdiction over customs, finance, immigration, health and other aspects in this area. That is to say, I can arrest you here for smuggling, smuggling, or quarantine your ship.

However, the sovereignty here has been reduced by one level, and civil aircraft can fly over the area.


The exclusive economic zone is just beyond the adjacent zone. The “200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone” we often refer to extends 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the territorial sea, so this 200 nautical miles also includes the territorial sea and adjacent areas. If calculated from outside the “adjacent zone”, the scope of the exclusive economic zone is 200 – (12 + 12) = 176 nautical miles.

The “sovereignty content” of the exclusive economic zone is relatively small. Its concept is mainly related to the ownership of marine resources.

All kinds of natural resources in the economic zone belong to the countries to which it belongs. If foreign ships damage the natural resources here, such as sneaking in to fish, explore and exploit oil, the state can arrest them.


In terms of navigational rights, the standards of the exclusive economic zone and the adjacent zone are basically the same: civilian ships can navigate freely and military ships can pass through. However, the mode of passage of military ships must comply with the specific regulations of the country where the sea area belongs.

Although the Convention on the law of the sea is the most extensive consensus in the world, countries have their own understanding and judgment on many specific provisions. Therefore, many countries in reality will exercise specific jurisdiction over their own sea areas through domestic legislation according to their own actual conditions.

Of course, whether or not this law made by you can really work at sea depends on whether or not your warship gives awesome.


Finally, there is a continental shelf jurisdiction. The sea area above the continental shelf where you are located is also your territory. However, the continental shelf of some countries is large, and its length may exceed the exclusive economic zone. The Convention on the law of the sea allows the territory of the continental shelf to exceed the exclusive economic zone, but there is a limit that it can be extended to a maximum of 350 nautical miles from the baseline of the territorial sea (that is, 150 nautical miles more than the exclusive economic zone).

If a certain sea area is outside the exclusive economic zone but within the continental shelf, the mineral and oil resources in this sea area belong to you, but the biological resources in the sea do not belong to you. In other words, other people can fish here, but they can’t dig the resources buried underground.

After popularizing the basic knowledge, let’s take a look at the issues we are most concerned about:

Can the “Reagan” enter the Taiwan Strait?



There are two typical Straits in the world,

One is the Bering Strait. The two sides belong to different countries. At this time, it is easy to overlap the territory of both sides in the middle of the Strait. According to the agreement between the United States and Russia, the “transit passage system” is implemented in the middle of the Bering Strait, that is, foreign ships and aircraft enjoy the right of rapid passage (no stopover) without any additional restrictions.


The second is the Taiwan Strait, where both sides belong to one country. There is no dispute over the ownership of the sea area here. It only needs to be divided into territorial sea, adjacent zone and exclusive economic zone according to UNCLOS. In this case, can the above “right of transit” be applied?

UNCLOS has a special explanation for this:

“If a strait is composed of an island of a state bordering the Strait and the mainland of that state, and the other side of the island has a passage through the high seas or through the exclusive economic zone that is equally convenient in terms of navigation and hydrological characteristics, the right of transit passage in the Strait does not apply.”

What does it mean? That is to say, if the island that forms the Strait together with the mainland has a convenient channel on the other side of the Strait, it is not necessary for ships to cross the Strait. In this case, the “transit system” mentioned above is not applicable to the Strait.

The Taiwan Strait can be said to be very typical: both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same country, and both sides of the Taiwan island can pass conveniently. The Taiwan Strait is not the only channel.


Therefore, ships cannot pass through the Taiwan Strait at will as they do in the Bering Strait. Of course, it’s not that you are not allowed to pass through the exclusive economic zone, because according to the relevant provisions of the Convention on the law of the sea, you can pass through the exclusive economic zone, but you should abide by China’s specific regulations, because this is a sea area under China’s full jurisdiction.

Then, if it is a foreign warship, how should it pass according to Chinese regulations?

As a warship, first of all, it must not enter the territorial sea and can only go through the exclusive economic zone.

China requires foreign warships to carry out “innocent passage” in the exclusive economic zone, and according to the law of the people’s Republic of China on the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, China has the right to monitor, manage and control the exclusive economic zone.

To put it simply, the “Reagan” aircraft carrier can indeed pass through the Taiwan Strait, but it must go through the exclusive economic zone, and it must pass innocuously under the surveillance of China; If there are submarines in the formation, the submarines must float.

Then the question comes. Since the UNCLOS does not prohibit foreign ships of all kinds from crossing the Taiwan Strait (it is OK to abide by the rules), what are you doing here all day long?


American Sao operation


The Convention on the law of the sea is the largest maritime consensus in the world today, with more than 150 signatories, including the vast majority of coastal countries in the world.

However, the United States did not sign it.

Yes, the United States, as the most influential maritime power in the world, has not signed the Convention representing the global maritime consensus.

The public reason why the United States did not sign the contract was that it did not agree with the part of the continental shelf clause on mining rights. As for what they actually think, only God knows.


Anyway, objectively speaking, signing a contract means setting limits for yourself. Unlike other coastal countries, the United States needs a law to protect itself, while the United States does not. Not only does he not need legal protection, but he also does not want others to be protected, because in this way, he can move freely without restrictions and put pressure on other countries.


Of course, although the United States has not signed the Convention, it has not openly opposed the contents of the Convention, which makes the United States “quite flexible” in dealing with maritime issues.

When the terms of the Convention are favorable to him, he will bring out the Convention and urge you to “observe discipline and law”; When the provisions of the Convention were not favorable to him, he turned a blind eye to the Convention and then defended “maritime rights and interests” according to his own understanding.

So why is the United States so willful? Mainly because the fist is too hard. At present, the world’s navies are not his rivals, and his willingness to “recognize the Convention once in a while depending on his mood” can be regarded as a saving of face.

Now the United States has sent warships to toss around the world, claiming to “safeguard freedom of navigation”. In fact, it is using its own ideas to oppose the consensus of the Convention on the law of the sea.


There are at least three differences between China and the United States on maritime rules:

China believes that within its territorial waters, foreign warships are “not allowed to enter unless invited”; However, the United States believes that there is no difference between warships and civilian ships on this issue. As long as it can ensure innocent passage, I have the right to sail into your territorial waters.

China believes that if foreign warships want to pass through the exclusive economic zone, they must pass through innocuously; The United States, on the other hand, believes that the exclusive economic zone is not a territorial sea, and I can live as I like.

China and the United States also have very different definitions of “innocent passage”. For example, the United States believes that as long as it does not engage in actual military operations, it is harmless. Military exercises and reconnaissance are all “harmless”. China, on the other hand, believes that only “well intentioned civilian passage” is harmless. Paramilitary actions, including military exercises and reconnaissance, are also harmful, and operations such as exploration cannot be considered “well intentioned”.

Therefore, the U.S. Navy often comes to provocation, in order to establish American rules on China’s territory; In order to safeguard the rights and interests of the country, the PLA will counteract the violations of the US military and practice its own rules.


The vast sea has no cover, and ships from outside the territory can come as soon as they want. The provocative party is indeed quite active in this regard. However, with the improvement of China’s military strength, the US military has less and less room for provocation. In general, their behavior in the Asia Pacific region is relatively regular:

For example, their military exercises are generally conducted on the high seas; When warships enter the exclusive economic zone, they generally choose to pass innocuously and accept monitoring; At the same time, the US military has rarely entered China’s territorial waters. Even if it does, it is still trying to test the edge. However, this kind of test will inevitably cause some friction with our army.

In order to minimize the possibility of accidental firing, the warships of the two sides can only “fight with each other”, that is, confront each other, shout, even squeeze, push and collide. Anyway, as long as you don’t fire, you can use all the moves you can.


As China’s maritime territory is very vast, maritime friction is actually a common occurrence for the people’s navy. In recent years, China has achieved fruitful results in the “armed combat at sea”, and has successfully driven away all kinds of foreign warships, including US warships, in many sea areas.

In fact, the US military has not crossed the Taiwan Strait before, but in recent years, they have passed through the Taiwan Strait innocuously according to China’s rules and have been subject to China’s monitoring throughout the process. If they continue to pass according to this standard in the future, it will not be news. However, if one day they do not follow China’s “innocent passage rules”, for example, submarines do not float, fire control radar is not turned off, and even carrier aircraft take off and land in the sea, this will be big news.

However, for aircraft carriers, the situation is quite special. When other types of warships cross the Strait, they can more or less play a military deterrent role, while the passage of aircraft carriers through the Strait has no military significance and can only be used as a pure “political show”.


Why do you say that?

Because the aircraft carrier is technically a long-range combat weapon, its military value is reflected in “using carrier aircraft for long-range attack”, rather than close hand to hand combat with the enemy. As a matter of fact, aircraft carriers are not good at close combat, and they suffer losses in both artillery and collision. The Navy allocates a large formation for aircraft carriers to prevent opponents from approaching aircraft carriers as much as possible.

Therefore, if an aircraft carrier enters the Strait, it is almost like throwing itself into a trap militarily.

What politicians want to show is a matter for politicians, while the soldiers on the ship inevitably have to consider the issue from a military perspective. If you have to sail in an environment where “I can’t threaten others, but others can threaten me”, it is not so much that you are putting pressure on the other side as that you are cautiously betting that the other side will let you go.

However, as mentioned above, in the case of provocation, the provoking party is always more active, and in general, the provoked party can only react passively.


Is there nothing else we can do?

Not at all. The law of the jungle world is very simple: the stronger your strength, the more methods you will have.

With the improvement of our army’s ocean going combat capability, we have indeed begun to have some other countermeasures. The basic idea is to “come and not to be rude”: if you come here to cruise, I’ll go there to cruise.

For example, in September 2021, the Chinese Navy entered the exclusive economic zone next to Alaska. Alaska is the forward position of the US anti missile system. Clearing the anti missile facilities here during the war can clear the obstacles for China’s long-range missile strike.

According to the rules publicized by the Americans themselves, the exclusive economic zone can be freely crossed. However, when the Chinese Navy really arrives, the Americans’ attitude of “freedom of navigation” will disappear. They quickly sent the coast guard to follow and monitor.

China’s ocean fleet photographed by the US Coast Guard ship:


In fact, as an ocean going Navy, it is normal to conduct necessary training on the ocean. It is not surprising to occasionally pass by or even surround some maritime countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia.



Although China is a traditional land power country, its marine endowment is no worse than that of a maritime country. China not only has the world’s sixth coastline, but also accounts for eight of the world’s top ten ports. The port throughput ranks first in the world with an overwhelming advantage.

Therefore, China is not a simple land power country, but a land power country “entering the sea”.

However, as mentioned in this article, the history of sea power civilization is very short, and there are still many things to be understood today. Therefore, friction and disputes on the sea are objective.

Since the ocean is the stage we must step on, we have to face the reality that there will be more problems waiting for us in the future, whether at home or in the distant ocean.

However, there is no need to worry too much about this. Although the problems may be many and complex, as long as the strength of the navy can continue to improve, we will have more and more ways to solve the problems.


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