The United States officials have confirmed a pair of United States Navy warships are sailing through international waters in the Taiwan Strait in a direct challenge to China.
It is the first such operation since heightened tension with China over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August.
In recent years US warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have routinely sailed through the strait, drawing Beijing’s anger.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory against the objections of the democratically elected government in Taipei, launched military drills near the island after Pelosi visited.
Those exercises have continued, with Taiwanese leaders say they fear China is conducting a series of operational ‘dry runs’ before mounting an invasion in earnest.
Pelosi’s trip infuriated Beijing, which depicted it as a US attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Saturday said US Navy guided-missile cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the operation, which they said was still underway.
The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Kuomintang government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao’s communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.