U.S. warships transit Taiwan Strait

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Two United States warships are sailing through international waters in the Taiwan Strait in the first such operation since China staged unprecedented military drill in the waterway last month.

In a statement on Sunday, the US Navy said the transit “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait soared to their highest level in years this month after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, reacted by staging days of air and sea exercises around the self-ruled island.

Beijing, which has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control, saw the trip as a US attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

Three US officials told the Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity that US Navy cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the operation.

Such operations usually take between eight and 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.

US warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as the United Kingdom and Canada, have routinely sailed through the Strait in recent years, drawing Beijing’s anger.