US Navy sails ships through Taiwan Strait
Posted November 29, 2018 9:54 a.m. EST
(CNN) — The US Navy sailed two ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, according to US Pacific Fleet which oversees operations in the area.
The guided missile destroyer, USS Stockdale, and the USNS Pecos "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on November 28 (local time), in accordance with international law," US Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman told CNN in a statement.
"The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows," Gorman added.
Two US officials said that Chinese naval vessels followed the US ships during the transit and that all interactions with the Chinese were deemed safe and professional.
The US Navy also sailed two ships through the Strait in October, an operation that was shadowed by multiple Chinese warships and the US conducted similar operation in July. Prior to that, the transits only occurred about once a year.
The approximately 110-mile-wide strait separates the People's Republic of China and Taiwan and is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.
Beijing continues to lay claim to Taiwan, a self-governed, democratic island, which it views as a breakaway province. While the strait constitutes international waters, China is thought to be very sensitive about the presence of US military forces in the strait.
Following the October transit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that "China paid close attention (to the incident), monitored the entire progress of the US warships passing through the Taiwan Strait, and has already expressed serious concern to the United States about this."