The guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) practices ship manoeuvres as it transits the Pacific Ocean. Picture: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jessica O. Blackwell/Handout via Reuters

Taipei - Taiwan's Defence Ministry said on Monday that two US Navy warships had freely sailed north through the Taiwan Strait at the weekend in a move that could raise tensions with China.

The ministry said in a statement that the free passage of the ships on Sunday was part of the US Navy's strategic tasks in the Indo-Pacific region and Taiwan was fully aware of the move.

According to the ministry, since last July, US Navy ships have sailed through the strait seven times.

The two vessels sailing through the strait have been identified as the destroyers William P Lawrence and Stethem, Taiwan's state-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported on Monday.

"The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

The passage through the strait, which shows US support for the self-ruled island, could raise tensions with China. Taiwan has had its own government since 1949 when Chinese Nationalists fled there after losing a civil war to the Communists. Beijing considers the self-governing democracy part of its territory.

Beijing last week protested to France after a French warship entered the same strait on April 6.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said late Monday that Beijing had paid close attention. He said China had also expressed its concern to the US, CNA reported.

In Beijing, Geng told a daily news briefing that the Taiwan issue is "the most important and sensitive issue" in Sino-US relations, CNA reported.

dpa