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China announces new drills around Taiwan as US delegation visits island : NPR

Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, left, and Democratic House Member John Garamendi of California, second from left, rear, arrive with their wives at the parliament building in Taipei, August 15, 2022.

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Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, left, and Democratic House Member John Garamendi of California, second from left, rear, arrive with their wives at the parliament building in Taipei, August 15, 2022.

Johnson Lai/AP

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China announced more military drills around Taiwan as the island’s president met with members of a new U.S. congressional delegation on Monday, a further sign of U.S. lawmakers’ support for the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own.

Taiwanese media showed the delegation arriving for the talks, but details of the meeting were not immediately released. The delegation was due to depart later Monday on a US government plane.

The visit came less than two weeks after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan sparked days of threatening Chinese military exercises, including missile fire over the island and in the Taiwan Strait. Pelosi is the highest-ranking member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China has also sent warplanes and navy ships through the median of the waterway, which has long been a buffer between the sides that broke up amid the civil war in 1949. China considers the official contacts between American politicians and the island’s government as support for its independence from Beijing.

Additional drills in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan were announced Monday by the People’s Liberation Army of China, the Defense Ministry and its Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.

The drills are intended as a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the United States and Taiwan,” the ministry said.

China’s previous two weeks of threatening drills prompted Taiwan to put its military on high alert, but were largely met with defiance and public apathy.

In Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, Foreign and National Defense Legislative Committee Chairman Lo Chih-Cheng met with U.S. lawmakers and said, “Their visit at this time is of great significance, as the “Chinese military exercise is (intended) to deter US congressmen from visiting Taiwan.”

“This time around, their visit proves that China cannot stop politicians from any country from visiting Taiwan, and it also sends an important message that the American people stand with the Taiwanese people,” he said. said Lo.

China says it wants to use peaceful means to bring Taiwan under its control, but its recent swordplay has underscored its threat to take the island by military force. Previous drills appeared to be designed as a rehearsal for a blockade or attack on Taiwan, forcing the cancellation of commercial flights and disrupting shipping to major Taiwan ports as well as cargo passing through the Taiwan Strait, l one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The five-member congressional delegation is led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and is scheduled to meet with other government and private sector officials. Investing in Taiwan’s crucial semiconductor industry and reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait are expected to be the main talking points.

Other members of the delegation are Republican Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democrats John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal of California and Don Beyer of Virginia.

A senior White House official on Asian policy said last week that China had used Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, jeopardizing peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. and in the wider region.

“China has overreacted and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, deputy aide to President Joe Biden, said in a call with reporters.

“He sought to ignore the median line between the PRC and Taiwan, which has been respected by both sides for more than 60 years as a stabilizing feature,” he said, using the acronym of the official name of China, the People’s Republic of China.

China accuses the United States of encouraging pro-independence forces in Taiwan by selling military equipment to the island and engaging with its officials. The United States says it does not support Taiwan independence but that its differences with China should be resolved through peaceful means.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long said it supports Taiwan’s peaceful joining of China, but would not rule out force if necessary. The two separated in 1949 during a civil war in which the Communists took control of China and the losing Nationalists retreated to Taiwan.

Campbell, speaking on Friday, said the United States would send warships and planes through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks and is developing a roadmap for trade talks with Taiwan which he said the United States intended to announce in the coming days.