(Bloomberg) -- U.S. naval ships transited through the Taiwan Strait as faltering trade talks and the Trump administration’s move to restrict Chinese tech companies’ access to the American market fuels tensions.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Preble and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted a routine transit through the waters on Wednesday and Thursday in accordance with international law, U.S. Seventh Fleet public affairs officer Clay Doss confirmed to Bloomberg News in an email.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” Doss said.
The transits highlight the U.S.’s strategic rivalry with China. Washington has increased its naval passages through the 180-kilometer (110 mile) wide strait separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland over the last year.
China pushed back against the latest passage, saying it had been aware it was taking place from “start to finish” and made “stern representations” to the U.S.
China hopes the U.S. does “not take any measures to undermine the situation in the Taiwan Strait or bilateral relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a Thursday briefing in Beijing.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post that the ships had conducted a freedom of navigation passage through the strait, and that there had been no abnormal activity.
The latest American passage comes after talks to end the long-running trade battle between the U.S. and China fell apart earlier this month. Washington has since restricted tech giant Huawei Technologies Co.’s access to the American market and is considering blacklisting as many as five other Chinese tech companies, raising questions about whether President Donald Trump is targeting more of the country’s firms.
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After an April 29 transit by two U.S. naval vessels through the strait, Taiwanese presidential hopeful and Foxconn founder Terry Gou called for the democratically run island to adopt high-tech defense mechanisms. Gou is the most prominent candidate for the opposition Kuomintang party’s nomination in a 2020 election that will determine whether Taiwan moves closer to China, which considers it a province.
(Updates with China Foreign Ministry commentfrom fifth paragraph.)
--With assistance from Adela Lin and Peter Martin.
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