The US military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war, US sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.
The two destroyers were identified as the William P Lawrence and Stethem. The 112-mile-wide (180-km) Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan from China.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.
Doss said there were no unsafe or unprofessional interactions with other countries’ vessels during the transit.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the US ships had sailed north through the strait.