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Two U.S. warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday on a voyage that will likely be viewed in the self-ruled island as a sign of support by President Donald Trump amid heightened tension with China.

Earlier on Saturday, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the ships were moving in a northeastern direction, adding that the situation was in accordance with regulations.

Taiwan, which has grown closer to the United States under the Trump administration, said that its military "is monitoring the situation in neighbouring areas, and has the confidence and abilities to maintain regional stability and defend national security".

The last time a U.S. Navy ship transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush.

China sees self-ruling democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, by force if necessary, but the island regards itself as a sovereign country.

The passage of USA military vessels through the Strait and the USS Ronald Reagan previously patrolling the South China Sea are strategic preventive actions adopted by the U.S. under its Indo-Pacific strategy, an anonymous source familiar with the matter said.

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It has lured away four of Taiwan's diplomatic allies since Tsai came to power, leaving only 18 countries in the world that recognise Taipei over Beijing.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in China, although Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

Charlie Brown, Pacific Fleet spokesman, said sailing through the body of water separating China and Taiwan is routine for the U.S. Navy.

A growing number of worldwide airlines and companies were also forced to change Taiwan's name to "Taiwan, China" or "Chinese Taipei" due to pressure from Beijing.

"The U.S. sending military ships through the Taiwan Strait is both a demonstration of its continuing support to Taiwan and of its willingness to exercise its maritime rights in China's periphery", said Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama.

"If we need to do a comparison, Taiwan certainly ranks above other topical hot-button issues such as even the East and South China sea disputes", Koh said.


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