China holds military drills as US delegation visits Taiwan
Separately, a Chinese mainland spokesperson urged the US government to fulfil its commitment to not support ‘Taiwan independence’ with real actions instead of saying one thing and doing another.
BEIJING: China on Friday deployed fighter aircraft, bombers and warships around self-ruled Taiwan as a visiting US Congressional delegation signalled support for the island, a tour termed by Beijing as “provocative” and raising tension in the region.
China conducted the multi-forces drill in and over the area around Taiwan and the East China Sea, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command said on Friday.
The statement was released on the mainland as the US lawmakers were holding a news conference in Taipei.
Separately, a Chinese mainland spokesperson urged the US government to fulfil its commitment to not support “Taiwan independence” with real actions instead of saying one thing and doing another.
According to the PLA, the large-scale drill was called a “joint patrol readiness combat” with emphasis on naval assault. “This operation is conducted targeting the recent wrong signals the US sent on the Taiwan question,” the PLA command said in a statement, adding: “The wicked tactics of the US are useless and dangerous. Those who play with fire will burn themselves.”
In a separate statement, the Chinese defence ministry said the visit by US politicians was “deliberately provocative” and had “led to further escalation of tension in the Taiwan Strait”.
China claims Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy, as a renegade region and has not ruled out using force to reunify the island.
The PLA has intensified drills around the island, frequently deploying ships and aircraft, in recent months but blames Washington for provoking tension over its decision to sell arms and send political delegations to Taiwan.
The visiting six-member US Congressional delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning and will also meet with the island’s defence minister.
Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey gave a speech praising Taiwan’s democracy and its global status as a manufacturer of semiconductor chips used in everything from cars to smartphones, and he warned of consequences if that status were jeopardised, the Associated Press said in a report from Taipei. “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,” said Menendez, the head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, in a speech.
For its part, the US routinely deploys warships in and around the Taiwan Strait, saying it’s part of its commitment to free and open seas.
In February, a US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait as part of what the American military called “routine” transit through international waters but a move criticised by the Chinese state media as “sending the wrong signal” amid the Ukraine crisis.
Worries have grown in Taiwan following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine given the fact that China’s top leadership including President Xi Jinping frequently mentions reunifying the island with the mainland.
Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen that the war in Ukraine and provocative behaviour by China have united US opinion in a way not seen before.
“To abandon Taiwan would be to abandon democracy and freedom,” he said. “There’s a backlash growing in the world to thuggery - to the bad guys.”
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, or China’s cabinet, said that for some time now, the US administration has been making repeated provocations on the Taiwan question and increasingly playing the “Taiwan card”, attempting to “use Taiwan to contain China” and obstruct China’s complete reunification and its process of national rejuvenation.