Sailors stand watch in the combat information center aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville during routine operations Sunday. Photo by Justin Stack/U.S. Navy
Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy on Sunday sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, leading Chinese military officials to say the country remains on "high alert."
The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, sailed through a corridor in the strait between Taiwan and China that is beyond the territorial sea of any nation, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.
The naval demonstration was the first such exercise by the United States since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier this month.
"The ship's transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States' commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the statement from the 7th Fleet reads.
"The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows."
Col. Shi Yi, a representative of China's Eastern Theater Command, confirmed the American ships had sailed through the strait.
"The Chinese People's Liberation Army Eastern Theater followed the whole process of the crossing operation of the U.S. ships," Shi said in a statement to the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
"Everything is under control. Theater forces remain on high alert, ready to thwart any provocation at all times."
The Taiwan Strait separates mainland China and Taiwan, a self-governing republic claimed by China.
Mainland China and the island of Taiwan, among other islands, were ruled by the Republic of China before the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War in the early 20th century to the Chinese Communist Party, which established the new government of the People's Republic of China in October 1949.
The ROC in turn established a temporary capital in Taipei on the island of Taiwan, a former Japanese territory, in December 1949 and served as the seat for China at the United Nations until it was replaced by the People's Republic of China in 1971 as foreign countries switched their diplomatic relations.
China views Taiwan and its 23 million residents as a wayward province and has vowed to retake it by force, if necessary. Many supporters of Taiwan have since argued that it is an independent sovereign state separate from mainland China, which has never controlled Taiwan.
Earlier this month, Pelosi's visit to Taiwan sparked a military response from the Chinese government, which then conducted daily drills, including conducting a possible simulated attack and launching several ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan.
Pelosi's trip also sparked criticism from former President Donald Trump who said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas that the top lawmaker "played right into their hands."
"Now they have an excuse to do what they're going to do," Trump said at the time.
Two weeks after Pelosi's visit, Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Taiwan to meet with senior leaders of the self-governed island to discuss relations with the United States and regional security, among other issues.