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A US battleship crossed the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the US Navy said, risking angering China, which claims sovereignty over the maritime thoroughfare.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit Oct. 14 (local time) in accordance with international law,” Seventh Fleet spokeswoman Reann Mommsen said in a statement.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she added.

The US Navy regularly conducts so-called “freedom of navigation” operations in the Taiwan Strait, which separates China from the island. The operations always provoke strong responses from Beijing.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory. The island is led by a rival government that took refuge there after communists took power in China in 1949, at the end of the Chinese Civil War.

Taiwan has its own flag and currency, but it is not recognized as an independent nation by the UN.

Washington ended its diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 in order to improve ties with China, but the US remains the island’s most powerful ally and its main arms supplier.

The Chinese have threatened to use force if Taipei proclaims independence or if there is foreign intervention.

Beijing views the passage of foreign vessels through the Strait as a violation of its sovereignty.

Washington and many other countries, on the other hand, see the waterway as part of international waters and therefore open to all.

Agence France-Presse

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