By Rebecca Shabad - 04/15/14 08:56 AM EDT
China on Tuesday expressed outrage over Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy’s visit this week to Taiwan, which China views as a rebel province.
The foreign ministry said McCarthy’s trip violates promises the United States has made to the Beijing government.
"No matter what goal the U.S. EPA administrator has in visiting Taiwan, she has violated ... the promises made by the United States to China on the Taiwan issue," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing, according to the Associated Press.
McCarthy met with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday, and she’ll also visit Vietnam during her trip, which is meant to highlight environmental cooperation between the U.S. and Asia-Pacific nations.
McCarthy’s visit marks the first by a Cabinet-level leader from Washington to Taiwan in 14 years. Former President Clinton dispatched then-Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater there in 2000.
In 1979, the U.S. broke formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan when it decided to recognize the government in Beijing. The U.S., however, does engage in unofficial relations with the island.
Chinese nationalists established Taiwan’s government after fleeing China in 1949 after they lost the civil war.
The AP notes China’s defense ministry protested the decision by House lawmakers earlier this month to authorize the sale of four U.S. warships to Taiwan.
China's latest protest comes after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with officials in China last week during a 10-day trip to the region.