Two US warships sailed across the Taiwan Strait in a move meant to aggravate China amid growing tensions with Beijing.
The USS Curtis Wilbur and the USS Antietam undertook a routine transit on Monday to demonstrate the United States' commitment "to a free and open Indo-Pacific," said Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for the United States Pacific Fleet. , it's a statement.
"The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere that international law permits," he said.
Multiple Chinese warships observed the two American vessels during transit, following a safe distance. There were no immediate comments from China.
The trip risks further increasing tensions with China, but will likely be seen in Taiwan's self-government as a signal of support from the government of President Donald Trump, amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
It was the second time in three months that the US warships carried out the so-called "freedom of navigation" exercises in the 180 km-wide stretch of water.
The Ministry of Defense of Taiwan confirmed the transit saying that "the ships of the United States habitually passed through the international waters of the Straits of Taiwan".
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China sees Taiwan as part of its territory to reunify, even though the two sides have been governed separately since the end of a civil war on the continent in 1949.
Beijing recently held a series of military maneuvers, including an actual fire drill in the Taiwan Strait in April, declaring its willingness to confront Taiwan's "independence forces".
Washington remains Taipei's most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite the change of diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $ 15 billion in weapons since 2010.
The Trump administration has sought closer ties with the island, and announced plans last month to sell 330 million dollars in spare parts for several aircraft, including the F-16 fighter and the C-130 cargo plane.
Taiwan's Prime Minister, William Lai, said during a parliamentary session on Tuesday that Taiwan respected the right of passage of the United States in international waters and recognized "the various efforts of the United States to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region." "
The Taiwan Ministry of Defense said in an earlier statement that the military was "closely monitoring American warships during its passage."
Taiwan is just one of a growing number of critical points in the US-China relationship, which also includes a bitter trade war, US sanctions and China's increasingly strong military posture in the South China Sea.
Al Jazeera and news agencies.