The US military says it has sent two navy ships through the Taiwan Strait, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, US sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the US also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.
The voyage will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
The transit was carried out by the destroyer Preble and the Navy oil tanker Walter S. Diehl, a US military spokesman said.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.
Commander Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.
There was no immediate reaction from Taiwan or China.
Earlier in May a US-led coalition of navy ships sailed through the South China Sea in what is yet another sign of growing tensions in the region.
From May 2 to 8, a US missile destroyer, two Indian naval ships, a Philippines patrol vessel, two Japanese warships and a helicopter carrier cruised the waters claimed by China, in a show of unity.
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 $US15 billion ($A22 billion) in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred territory.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The US Defence Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernisation, which it said had made major advances in recent years.
On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.