“A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon transited the Taiwan Strait into international airspace on June 24. The United States will continue to fly, navigate, and operate wherever international law permits, including the Taiwan Strait. By operating in the Taiwan Strait in accordance with law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations. The transit of the aircraft through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States. United States in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement read.
On Tuesday, China’s Defense Ministry said the 29 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force planes were a mix of fighter jets, early warning planes and control, electronic warfare aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, electronic intelligence aircraft and aerial refueling aircraft.
It was the third highest daily number of Chinese planes entering Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) since the start of the year and comes less than a month after China sent 30 combat aircraft in a similar mission.
The Taiwan question has been at the forefront of US-China relations in recent months.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since defeated nationalists retreated to the island at the end of the Chinese Civil War more than 70 years ago.
But China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers the self-governing island to be part of its territory, although it has never controlled it.
Beijing has not ruled out military force to take Taiwan and has kept pressure on the democratic island in recent years with frequent flights of warplanes into the island’s ADIZ.
An ADIZ is unilaterally imposed and separate from sovereign airspace, which is defined under international law as extending 12 nautical miles from a territory’s coastline.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration defines it as “a designated area of airspace over land or water in which a country requires the immediate and positive identification, location, and traffic control aircraft in the interest of the national security of the country”.
After the Shangri-La conference, the Chinese Foreign Ministry reaffirmed previous statements that the Taiwan Strait “is not international waters”.
“The waters of the Taiwan Strait extend from the coasts on both sides of the strait to the center line of the strait, and are China’s internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone in that order. “said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. during a June 13 briefing, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Chinese domestic law.
Reiterating Beijing’s position on Wednesday, an op-ed in China’s state-run tabloid Global Times claimed that the entire Taiwan Strait – the 110-mile (180 kilometer) body of water between Taiwan and mainland China – is not not international waters, but rather completely under the jurisdiction of Beijing.
The actions of U.S. and foreign warships that regularly pass through the strait constitute provocations that violate Chinese sovereignty and are not innocent passage, a recognized international right, the Global Times said.
The US Navy sees things differently, regularly sending warships to the strait, including on May 10, when the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal made a transit.
As with airspace, international law states that a country’s territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from its coast.
CNN’s Wayne Chang contributed to this report.