US warns Beijing against force after Taiwan incursion by fighter jets

Taiwanese soldiers sit on a tank after an anti-invasion drill in January 2019. Taiwan scrambled aircraft following an incursion by Chinese jets on March 31. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday (April 2) warned Beijing against the use of "force or coercion" on Taiwan after the self-ruling island said that two Chinese fighter jets crossed a traditionally respected maritime line dividing the two sides.

"The United States opposes unilateral actions by any party that are aimed at altering the status quo, including anything related to force or coercion," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

"Beijing should stop its coercive efforts and resume dialogue with the democratically elected administration" in Taipei, he said.

Beijing - which considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification - has stepped up its jet and warship crossings near the island since the 2016 election of Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen.

But going a step further, Taiwan's defence ministry said that two Chinese J-11 fighter jets took the highly unusual step on Sunday of crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait that divides the mainland from the island.

Taiwan scrambled its own aircraft and protested against the "intentional, reckless and provocative action".

The US, like the vast majority of countries, recognises only Beijing, but it maintains a close relationship with Taiwan.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act passed by the US Congress, Washington is legally obliged to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

National security adviser John Bolton stressed US commitment for the Taiwan Relations Act in a tweet on Monday, amid events to mark the law's 40th anniversary.

"Chinese military provocations won't win any hearts or minds in Taiwan, but they will strengthen the resolve of people everywhere who value democracy. The Taiwan Relations Act and our commitment are clear," he wrote.

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