WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Navy sent two destroyers through the Taiwan Strait, the first U.S. warships to pass through the strait since 2017.

The Japan-based destroyers Mustin and Benfold passed through the the 110-mile-wide strait between Taiwan and China late Saturday evening local time, Taiwan News first reported.

The move comes as China and the U.S. are at odds over both China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and a growing trade dispute.

The Navy confirmed the transit and said it was routine.

“Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait on July 7-8 (local time),” said Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown. “U.S. Navy ships transit between the South China Sea and East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait and have done so for many years.”

China is touchy about the Taiwan Strait and the issue of Taiwan, which China claims is rightfully theirs, has been a flashpoint between China and the Trump administration.

In June, the Guardian reported that relations between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were in “deep freeze” and said the U.S. was weighing sending a carrier strike group through the Strait of Taiwan.

The U.S. has not send a carrier through the strait since 2007. The Chinese have invested heavily in land-based, long-range anti-surface missiles designed to keep the U.S. Navy at bay.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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