Beijing has condemned a new U.S. plan to replace its civilian defense contractors in Taiwan with active duty military personnel. Washington's plan reverses a 25-year practice of avoiding a direct U.S. military presence in Taiwan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry says the U.S. policy threatens to destabilize cross-strait relations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao criticized Washington's plans in a news briefing Tuesday.
Mr. Liu said the U.S. policies are encouraging Taiwanese moves toward independence and imperiling U.S.-Chinese relations.
China considers Taiwan its territory, and has threatened to invade the island if it declares formal independence. The two split following civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan and set up a government.
The United States confirmed reports Monday that it will use active duty military officers to work with Taiwan's army starting next year.
Washington previously worked with the Taiwanese military through civilian defense contractors based at the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei, known as the American Institute in Taiwan.
AIT spokeswoman Dana Smith says the decision to replace civilians with military personnel does not indicate a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward Taiwan or mainland China.
"Our policy toward Taiwan has not changed," he said. "This is simply an effort to promote administrative efficiency in personnel matters, nothing more."
Ms. Smith says a 2002 congressional amendment to the Taiwan Relations Act permits the new policy.
Under that act, which was first passed in 1979, the United States is obligated to defend Taiwan if China attacks the island.
Washington also provides technical and training assistance to the Taiwanese military and is Taiwan's leading arms supplier. Beijing routinely opposes U.S. arms sales to Taipei.
At the same news briefing, Mr. Liu said Beijing's plans for a law barring secession was aimed at pro-independence moves on Taiwan, and rejected criticism of it from Washington and Taipei. Politicians on Taiwan say the Beijing would use the law as a pretext to attack the island.