Two US warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, according to an American military spokesman, amid heightened tensions with China.
The USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam carried out a routine transit on Monday to prove US commitment “to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Colonel Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he added.
Several Chinese warships shadowed the American vessels during the transit, military officials told CNN.
The US warships had conducted so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises in the 180 kilometer wide stretch of water.
In July, a pair of the US Navy’s guided-missile destroyers passed through the Taiwan Strait.
China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty under a policy known as “One China.”
US expresses ‘serious concern’ to US
China had already expressed “serious concern” to the United States, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.
“The Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territory, and is the most important, most sensitive issue in China-US relations,” she said.
She added that Beijing had called on Washington to appropriately handle the Taiwan issue to promote peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
China recently conducted a series of military exercises, including a live fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April.
Chinese officials warned late last month that a State Department-approved sale of F-16 fighter jet spare parts to Taiwan would violate international law and damage US-China relations.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver told Reuters recently that Defense Secretary James Mattis assured his Chinese counterpart that Washington’s stance on Taiwan remains unchanged.
Tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea have been on the rise in recent months.
The US Navy is also reportedly planning to launch a global show of force to demonstrate its forces readiness for military confrontation, warning adversaries about America’s ability to take on enemies on several fronts.
Early this month, a Chinese warship had an “unsafe” encounter with a US destroyer near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
In September, US B-52 bombers flew over the South China Sea and East China Sea, according to US military officials. The US military officials added that the operations were routine and “designed to enhance our readiness and interoperability with our partners and allies in the region.”