By JOHNSON LAI
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China announced new military drills around Taiwan as the self-governing island’s president met with members of a new U.S. congressional delegation on Monday, threatening to reignite tensions between Beijing and Washington after a similar recent visit by the Speaker of the United States House. Nancy Pelosi has angered China.
Pelosi was the highest-ranking member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and his trip sparked nearly two weeks of threatening military exercises from China, which claims the island as its own. During these drills, Beijing fired missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait and sent warplanes and navy ships across the centerline of the waterway, which has long served as a buffer between the parties that broke up in the midst of the Civil War in 1949.
China accuses the United States of encouraging the island’s independence through arms sales and engagement between American politicians and the island’s government. Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic relations with the island and argues the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully – but it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.
US and Taiwanese officials have accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for intimidation, and a senior US official recently said Washington will continue to deepen ties with Taiwan in the days and weeks to come. .
The latest trip began on Sunday with little notice – and drew more ire from China. The delegation was due to leave late Monday.
“China will take resolute and strong measures to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing on Monday, after Beijing announced new exercises in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan. “A handful of American politicians, in collusion with separatist Taiwan independence forces, are trying to challenge the one-China principle, which is outdated and doomed to failure.”
The new exercises were to be “a resolute response and a solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the United States and Taiwan”, the Defense Ministry said earlier.
It was unclear if the new drills had already started since the ministry gave no details on where and when they would be conducted, unlike previous rounds.
U.S. lawmakers, led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, met with President Tsai Ing-wen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and lawmakers, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island.
During their meeting, Tsai said his administration was working with allies to ensure stability in the Taiwan Strait and maintain the status quo – a reference to the island’s autonomy, separate from Beijing.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year showed the threat that authoritarian nations pose to the world order,” Tsai said.
Markey responded by saying that Washington and Taipei had a “moral obligation to do everything in their power to avoid unnecessary conflict and that Taiwan has shown incredible restraint and discretion in these trying times.” .
The senator also pointed to legislation intended to strengthen political and economic ties with Taiwan, particularly in the critical semiconductor industry. Taiwan is a crucial supplier of computer chips to the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors, and beyond the geopolitical risks of rising tensions in the region, a protracted crisis in the Taiwan Strait could have implications. major for international supply chains at a time. when the world is already facing disruption and uncertainty.
Markey is one of the few members of Congress still in office who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 which ensured continued relations with the island after the transfer of US diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. 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.
In a statement from his Senate office, Markey cited the 1979 law as saying the United States must maintain its commitment to “help Taiwan resist cross-strait coercion” and avoid conflict.
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 a repeat of a blockade or attack on Taiwan that would force the cancellation of commercial flights and disrupt shipping to major Taiwan ports as well as cargo passing through the Taiwan Strait, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
The drills prompted Taiwan to put its military on high alert, but were largely met with defiance or apathy among the public used to living in China’s shadow.
The “US visit at this time is of great significance, as the Chinese military exercise is (intended) to deter US congressmen from visiting Taiwan,” said Lo Chih-cheng, chairman of the Committee of the domestic and foreign defense of the Taiwan legislature. with US lawmakers.
“Their visit this time 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,” Lo said. .
A senior White House official in charge of Asia policy said last week that China had used Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to launch a heightened pressure campaign against Taiwan.
“China has overreacted and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, deputy aide to US President Joe Biden, said on a call with reporters on Friday.
Campbell said the United States would send warships and planes across the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks and is developing a roadmap for trade negotiations with Taiwan which he said the United States had l intend to announce in the coming days.