Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam traversed the strait Oct. 22, 2018, US Pacific Fleet confirmed to Business Insider. The US Navy conducted a similar operation in July 2018, sending the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold through the tense waterway.
The pair of US Navy warships conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law,” Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr told BI, adding that the purpose of the mission was to demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and to remind others that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The latest move comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have been fighting over a variety of issues ranging from trade to territorial disputes.
The US Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilber.
China, concerned that US military actions around Taiwan will embolden pro-independence factions on the self-ruled island, has bolstered its military presence in the area in 2018. The Chinese military has sailed its aircraft carrier and accompanying escort ships through the Taiwan Strait and conducted “encirclement” exercises involving fighters, bombers and other military assets throughout 2018.
Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence.
The US Navy’s latest challenge to China comes just a few weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, in which a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US Navy warship during an “unsafe” encounter following a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands. That incident followed a string of US Air Force bomber flights through the disputed East and South China Seas, flights Beijing characterized as “provocative.”
Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait Oct. 22, 2018, but the Chinese ships remained at a safe distance.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.