Tensions between China and Taiwan escalated last year following an array of trips to the island by US and European officials. China, which sees the island as its breakaway province, criticized the visits as a show of support for Taiwanese separatism.
Beijing has accused Washington of jeopardizing peace in the Taiwan Strait after a US reconnaissance military plane flew above the sensitive waterway, in a mission that the White House claimed was conducted in accordance with international law.
Shi Yi, a spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said in a statement that "the US side's actions deliberately interfered with and disrupted the regional situation and endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We firmly oppose this."
He added that the "Theatre forces remain on high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The US 7th Fleet in turn pledged that the country’s military would continue to "fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows, including within the Taiwan Strait."
The developments come amid ongoing tensions between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, which is seen by the Chinese government as a breakaway province.
CIA Director William Burns told a US media outlet on Monday that he thinks Washington needs "to take very seriously" Chinese President Xi Jinping’s "ambitions with regard to ultimately controlling Taiwan." According to Burns, "That doesn't, however, in our view, mean that a military conflict [over Taiwan] is inevitable."
The China-Taiwan tensions are also exacerbated by the US repeatedly sending warships and surveillance planes to the Taiwan Strait, with Beijing slamming such missions as provocations and portraying Washington as "a security risk creator in the region."
Although the US does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Washington has a representative office in Taipei, and remains the island's biggest supplier of military hardware.
Beijing considers the island an integral part of the PRC, sticking to a policy of peaceful reunification under a "One China – Two Systems" model.