China stages military exercises as ‘countermeasure’ to ‘negative’ visit by US lawmakers to Taiwan

In response to a supportive visit to Taiwan from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, China’s military staged a series of exercises aimed at reminding the delegation of its willingness to use force to bring Taiwan under its control.

While the six lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday and pledged their support of the self-governing island’s continued democracy, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command was running drills in areas just opposite Taiwan as “a countermeasure to the recent negative actions of the U.S., including the visit of a delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

Zhao added that China would “continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

 

In a statement issued by the Eastern Theater Command and reported on by the Associated Press, the exercises were described as “a necessary action based on the present security situation in the Taiwan Strait and the need to safeguard national sovereignty.”

“Taiwan is a sacred and inalienable part of Chinese territory,” the statement continued. “There is no room for any foreign interference on the Taiwan issue.”

Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ), head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, spoke as part of the delegation at Taiwan’s Presidential Office, praising Taiwan’s democracy as well as its global significance as a manufacturer of the crucial semiconductor chips that power everything from smartphones to automobiles.

“It is a country of global significance, of global consequence, of global impact, and therefore it should be understood the security of Taiwan has a global impact for those who would wish it ill,” Menendez stated, stressing that “we seek no conflict with China as I believe Taiwan seeks no conflict with China.”

President Tsai welcomed the delegation, which was led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and comprised of Menendez and Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Robert Portman (R-OH), and Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX).

 

Tsai said she hoped the trip would help deepen existing US-Taiwan cooperation in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine — a development many fear may embolden China to move on Taiwan.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven that democracies must bolster their alliances and collectively we can defend ourselves from the threats posed by authoritarian nations that seek to disrupt regional peace,” Tsai said.

As Taiwan’s biggest unofficial ally, the U.S. has increased its sale of weapons to the island nation in past years, but whether or not President Biden’s administration would intervene should China invade remains unclear.

China, on the other hand, has repeatedly been less-than-subtle in its stance on the issue.

As previously reported, on the morning of last month’s anticipated call between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, China sailed its elite Shandong aircraft carrier, considered the jewel in the nation’s naval crown, through the contested Taiwan Strait.

The act, just hours before the two leaders were to speak for the first time in months, was, at the time, called a “very provocative message” by Lo Chih-cheng, a senior lawmaker from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“Tensions across the Taiwan Strait won’t rise sharply because of this,” the lawmaker said, “but it will likely cause neighboring countries to raise their military alert.”

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