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US warships sail through Taiwan Strait amid tensions with China

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.

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.”

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.”