The Pentagon has sent ships through the Taiwan Strait — the third time in as many months — as Washington ramps up naval activities in the waterway, stoking fears in Beijing of a growing alignment with Taipei.

The move, likely to be interpreted by China as implicit support for self-ruled Taiwan, saw the U.S. send the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Curtis Wilbur destroyer and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf through the strait on Sunday and Monday, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman said.

The two vessels "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Mar. 24-25 ... in accordance with international law," spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said. "The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows."