TAIPEI - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday urged China not make further provocations after it sent a large number of military aircraft into Taiwanese airspace on two consecutive days amid tensions over a senior U.S. State Department official's visit to the self-governed island.
"The Taiwanese are on the alert and this furthers the international community's understanding of the threat China poses to Taiwan," Tsai told reporters after attending an event in Taipei, while also urging restraint from Beijing.
On Friday and Saturday, Chinese warplanes repeatedly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone, prompting Taiwan to scrambled its own fighters.
China was lashing out in opposition to the visit of U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach to Taiwan to attend a memorial service for former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, who died in late July.
Krach, who met with Tsai on Friday, was the highest ranking U.S. State Department official to visit Taiwan since Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan since 1979, infuriating China, which regards the island as a renegade province.
Tsai said the visit of Krach, responsible for economic growth, energy and the environment, denotes "significant progress" in U.S.-Taiwan relations and thanked the United States for demonstrating its support of Taiwan through actions.
She said they exchanged opinions in a wide range of fields such as security of 5G mobile communication systems, supply chain reorganization and digital technology development.
Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Their relationship has deteriorated under the independence-leaning Tsai government.
Tsai also expressed her gratitude for former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who visited in early August to pay tribute to Lee, coming again for Saturday's memorial service for Taiwan's first popularly elected leader.
She and Mori met on Friday, at which time he relayed new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's message that, "If there is an opportunity, I would like to speak (with Tsai) over the phone."
Asked about that message on Sunday, Tsai said there are "no plans" at present and that she would communicate with the Japanese side as necessary.