China has lambasted the United States for flying one of its military transport jets over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, condemning the contentious move as an “illegal act” and “serious provocation.”
A US Boeing C-40A Clipper transport jet flew over the island on Tuesday, according to Taiwan's defense ministry, the same day that the island intercepted a number of Chinese warplanes that purportedly flew into the island's southwest airspace.
The US overflight, which occurred earlier this week, “harms our sovereignty, security and development interests, and violates basic principles of international law and international relations,” said Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, on Thursday.
“We deplore and firmly oppose the act,” she stressed, China’s Xinhua state news agency further quoted her as saying during a press conference. The Taiwan Affairs Office is China’s top-level body overseeing policy toward Taiwan.
Taiwan's defense ministry added in its statement on Tuesday that the US aircraft entered Taiwan’s airspace after applying for permission, but did not land at any of its airports.
China has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty, saying the island is part of China’s territory awaiting reunification.
The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to counter Beijing.
Elsewhere in her remarks, Zhu said Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “linked up with external forces to violate China’s territorial sovereignty, destroy the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, and harm the safety and well-being of islanders.”
She warned the DPP not to misjudge the situation and urged it to immediately stop “the wrong doings.”
Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, but remains the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan's secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen, causing increasing tensions with Beijing over trade and a host of other issues.
Washington almost regularly makes provocative moves around the self-governed island, particularly by sailing its warships through the sensitive and strategic Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from China.
The provocative moves almost always draw angry reaction from China, which has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its full control.
The Tuesday overflight adds to soaring tensions between the US and China over a number of issues, and Washington’s controversial relationship with Taipei is high on the list of disagreements.