National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby confirmed that the United States is aware of reports of Chinese drones flying near Taiwanese airspace and accused China of trying to “permanently alter” the “status quo” in the region.
“We’ve certainly noted the reports coming out of Taiwan about the overflight,” Kirby said during a gaggle with reporters on Wednesday following reports that Taiwan fired warning shots at Chinese drones encroaching on Taiwanese airspace this week.
“What we have seen before the Speaker’s visit, during that visit, and after that visit is a clear attempt by the Chinese to permanently alter the status quo in and around Taiwan and to sort of set a new normal for their activities and behaviors, be that behavior crossing over the medium line with air and maritime assets or in this case, overflight by unmanned aerial systems.”
Kirby explained that the United States has been “very clear publicly that changing the status quo is unacceptable” and “we’re not going to recognize it” or “abide by it.”
The drone incident took place on the Kinmen island group, a Taiwan-held region just 9 miles from the Chinese coast. Taiwanese soldiers spotted drones hovering above the island and fired warning shots, causing the drones to return to the nearby city of Xiamen, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
A statement from the Taiwanese military described the drones as “civilian use.”
The reports represent the latest threatening gesture from China following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month, which sparked immediate backlash from Beijing. Chinese officials perceived the visit as a threat to the “One China” policy and Beijing’s longstanding claim to ownership of the island.
“What we said many weeks ago in advance of the speaker’s visit, that it was entirely likely that the Chinese would use that visit as a pretext, an excuse to do exactly what they’re doing now, which is these sort of new normal behaviors,” Kirby said Wednesday. “And that’s what we’re – that’s what we’re seeing sort of, sort of playing out. But they’re unacceptable. We’re not going to and we’re not simply going to stop refuting their legitimacy.”
China shut down negotiations with the United States on several issues, including climate change, in response to Pelosi’s visit. However, Kirby said Wednesday there are “active efforts” taking place to arrange a meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the near future.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.