China has condemned the US military for the “provocative” flight of one of its aircraft over Taiwan claimed by China for violating China’s sovereignty and violating international law.
The East Asian superpower regards democratically administered Taiwan as its own territory and is one of the most sensitive diplomatic issues. It regularly criticizes the United States for supporting the island.
A U.S. C-40A, a military version of the Boeing 737, has entered Taiwan’s airspace with permission, although it has not landed at an airport in Taiwan, the Taiwan Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the US plane had “violated our sovereignty, security and development rights and was contrary to international law and basic standards of international relations.”
“It was an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident,” the agency said in a statement by the state media. “We express strong discontent and determined opposition.”
The U.S. Seventh Fleet said the U.S. Navy aircraft was on a routine logistical flight from Kadena airbase in Japan to Thailand, but was diverted by Taiwan to avoid “an exercise on the East Coast.”
“The C-40 flew a cleared route, offered by Taiwanese air traffic controllers, who passed through their airspace and over the island and were never in the Taiwan Strait,” it said in a statement.
“There were no interactions or interceptions of aircraft in flight.”
Taiwan is controlled entirely separately from China and has its own airspace.
On the same day the US plane flew over the island, the Taiwanese Air Force had to warn several Chinese fighter jets that briefly invaded the Taiwan air defense zone.
Taiwan has repeatedly complained about Chinese exercises near the island.
The United States has stepped up its military activities near the island, with semi-regular U.S. Navy voyages through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating the island from China.
While Washington and Taipei have no formal diplomatic ties, the United States is Taiwan’s strongest international supporter and main arms supplier.