China says the fight of a U.S. military plane over the Taiwan Strait Monday "endangered peace and stability" in the region.
The Eastern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army said in a statement that it closely monitored a U.S. Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane as it flew over the waterway that divides mainland China and the self-ruled island of Taiwan. The Command said the flight "deliberately interfered with and disrupted the regional situation and endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."
The statement also warned that forces in the region "maintain a high level of alert at all times and will resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet issued a statement saying the plane flew over the Strait in international airspace. "The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows including within the Taiwan Strait," the statement said, adding that by doing so the U.S. "upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations."
China considers Taiwan part of its territory, even though the island has been self-governing since the end of China's civil war in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces fled there when they were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong's Communists. China has vowed to bring Taiwan under its control by any means necessary, including a military takeover.
China has carried out numerous air and naval military exercises near Taiwan in recent years to intimidate the island from formally declaring independence. It has also put diplomatic pressure on countries to get them to cut formal ties with Taiwan.