TAIPEI: A US military ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, the island's defence ministry said, a move likely to further irk Beijing in the wake of Washington's latest arms sales to Taipei.

The transport ship was conducting a “freedom of navigation" voyage, the ministry said in a statement without providing any details.

China views any ships passing through the strait as a breach of its sovereignty — while the US and many other nations view the route as international waters.

It comes after the US State Department on Tuesday approved the transfer of 66 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in a $8 billion deal, following another huge military hardware sale agreed just last month.

China has blasted the deal and threatened to sanction firms involved in the sale of the fighter jet, at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing are already strained by a punitive trade war.

It was the seventh such passage by US Navy ships this year according to data released by Taiwan's defence ministry.

US warships periodically conduct “freedom of navigation" exercises in the waterway, often triggering angry responses from China.

Last month China published a defence white paper stressing its willingness to use force to thwart any move towards the island's independence, and accusing the US of undermining global stability.

France and Canada also sent warships through the Taiwan Strait earlier this year.

Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing views the self-ruling, democratic island as part of its territory.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019