The flagship of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), transits the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operation with Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Photo Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet

Two US warships sailed across the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, sparking a protest from China, in the second such crossing this month and in a move that comes nearly two weeks after a Chinese battle group led by an aircraft carrier used the same waterway.

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has been angered by the intensification of US support for the island, which includes arms sales and the conduct of warships across the Taiwan Strait , which further deteriorates relations between Washington and Beijing.

The US Navy said, “The destroyers John McCain and Curtis Wilber, carrying guided missiles, made a regular crossing of the Taiwan Strait on December 31, in line with international law.”

“The passage of ships through the Taiwan Strait shows the American commitment to the freedom and openness of the Indian and Pacific oceans. The United States army will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” they added.

It is the 13 time that US naval vessels cross the strait this year, according to Reuters.

The Chinese Defense Ministry condemned the crossing as a ” provocation” and a “show of force.”

“The crossing of ships sends the wrong message to supporters of Taiwan independence and poses a grave threat to peace and stability,” they said, adding that “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army maintains a high level of readiness at all times, responds to all threats and provocations at all times, and resolutely defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In Taiwan, the Ministry of Defense said that the two ships sailed across the strait towards the north in what it described as a “normal mission.”

They added that the Taiwan armed forces monitored the sailing and that the situation was “normal”.