China on Monday briefly deployed two fighter jets across the midline of the Taiwan Strait shortly ahead of a visit between U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s government said.
Mr. Azar’s trip marks the highest-level visit to the island by a U.S. official since 1979, but in the process has added fuel to already surging tensions between Washington and Beijing.
While the U.S. and China have clashed on a number of fronts — including trade, human rights, Hong Kong and control of the South China Sea — Beijing has historically reacted with a special intensity to signs that the U.S. was bolstering the independence of Taiwan, which China considers an integral part of its territory.
Just after news of the Azar trip broke, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin demanded that the U.S. stop all forms of official communication with Taiwan and warned of retaliation.
Beijing followed through on their vow and flew J-11 and J-10 jet fighters into Taiwan’s part of the narrow strait, Reuters reported.
Taiwan tracked the jets using land-based anti-aircraft missiles and were “driven out” by patrolling aircraft.
A senior Taiwanese official told the publication that it was clear China was “targeting” the U.S. visit with a “very risky” maneuver that marked the third time since 2016 Beijing has crossed the midline of the strait. The Chinese jets flew within range of Taiwan’s missiles.