Uping the ante in the Taiwan Strait

Two U.S. Navy ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait this week, the latest move as American forces seek to portray the western Pacific as traditionally open to international shipping and Beijing attempts to assert dominance over contested waters.

The guided-missile destroyer Stethem and the dry cargo ship Cesar Chavez sailed the strait on Monday and Tuesday, “in accordance with international law,” according to a statement by the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet.

It was the second such transit this year.

Seventh Fleet officials in Japan confirmed that the U.S. vessels encountered Chinese forces, but declined to detail what happened, instead calling the interaction “routine and uneventful.”

“This routine transit demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the command statement read. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

U.S. officials also always allude to international waters when describing warships that conduct freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPs, in the nearby South China Sea.

U.S. Navy FONOPs typically involve vessels sailing near man-made Chinese islands that Beijing has fortified with materiel, runways and radars.