China says US 'endangered' peace with Taiwan Strait fly-through

Beijing has been incensed by US military missions through the Taiwan strait, most frequently of warships. - PHOTO: US NAVY via The Straits Times/ANN

BEIJING/TAIPEI, Feb 27 (Reuters): China accused the United States of "endangering" peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait after a U.S. P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance military plane flew through the sensitive waterway on Monday.

Beijing has been incensed by U.S. military missions through the narrow strait, most frequently of warships but occasionally of aircraft, saying China "has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction" over the waterway. Taiwan and the United States dispute that saying it is an international waterway.

The Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army said its forces closely monitored the aircraft, which is also used for anti-submarine missions, as it flew through the strait which separates China from Taiwan.

"The U.S. side's actions deliberately interfered with and disrupted the regional situation and endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We firmly oppose this," it said in a short statement.

"Theatre forces remain on high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States has previously said such missions show the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Taiwan's defence ministry, in its own brief statement, said the aircraft had flown in a southerly direction through the strait.

Taiwan's forces tracked the aircraft as if flew through the strait, the ministry said, noting the situation was "as normal". It did not elaborate.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activity near the island in the past three years as it seeks to try to force Taiwan to accept Beijing's sovereignty.

Taiwan's government says only the island's people can decide their future and it will not give in to threats.

Washington is Taiwan's most important international backer and seller of arms despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties, and U.S. support for the island is a constant irritant in Sino-U.S. relations. (Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Ben Blanchard; editing by John Stonestreet and Nick Macfie)

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