China submitted an official protest with the United States Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a measure that could result in U.S. naval warships visiting self-ruled Taiwan.
Trump signed into law Tuesday defense budget legislation that authorizes the possibility of mutual visits by naval ships between Taiwan and the U.S. Should any such visits occur, they would be the first since the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and established relations with China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing that while sections of the law pertaining to Taiwan were not legally binding, they violate the “One China” policy and “constitute an interference in China’s internal affairs.”
Lu Kang added Beijing is opposed to any official exchanges, military contact or arms sales between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Tensions in the region escalated in recent days after a senior Chinese diplomat warned that Beijing would invade Taiwan if any U.S. warships visited Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.
Chinese warplanes carried out patrols around Taiwan on Tuesday, with Chinese state media showing images of bombers armed with cruise missiles.
Taiwan’s presidential spokesman, Alex Huang, told reporters in Taiwan on Wednesday the defense ministry responded immediately to the patrols. Huang said Taiwan “can ensure there are no concerns at all about national security, and people can rest assured.”
Taiwan’s well-equipped military is armed with mostly U.S. weapons but has been pushing for more advanced weaponry in response to what it sees as a growing threat from China. The U.S. is obligated by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
Relations between China and Taiwan have deteriorated since the leader of Taiwan’s independence-leading Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen, won presidential elections in 2016.
China believes Tsai wants to declare formal independence, a move Beijing would vehemently oppose.
Taiwan separated from China in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. While Taiwan considers itself a sovereign country, it has never formally declared independence.
Beijing maintains Taiwan is Chinese territory and has said it will be brought back under Chinese control.