The US military confirmed two Navy ships sailed north through the Taiwan strait. The move is set to further anger Beijing at a time when relations between the two nations continue to be strained due to the ongoing trade dispute. The voyage carried out by the Destroyer Preble and Navy oil tanker will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the US President Donald Trump, amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
China has increased pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said: “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Meanwhile the state-run China Daily has warned of the significance of the US presence in the region and said there is “no guarantee that the presence of US warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries”.
However Taiwan’s armed forces who monitored the transit, played down the incident and confirmed nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
US warships have sailed through the region at least once a month since the start of this year.
The US has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
Over the past few years China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises and worked to isolate it internationally.
The continued presence of the US military near China set to escalate the ongoing trade war between the world’s largest economies.
Earlier this month the US president increased levies on $200bn (£157.3bn) worth of Chinese imports into the US.
Tariffs were increased from 10 percent to 25 percent after Washington and Beijing failed to reach a deal on trade.
Meanwhile China retaliated by announcing plans to raise levies on $60bn of US imports from June 1.