China has announced more military drills around Taiwan as the island’s president met members of a US congressional delegation in a further sign of support by US lawmakers for the self-governing island which Beijing claims as its own.
The visit came less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which prompted days of threatening military exercises by China, including the firing of missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait.
Ms Pelosi is the highest-level member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China also sent warplanes and navy ships across the waterway’s median, which has long been a buffer between the sides that separated amid civil war in 1949.
China regards formal contacts between US politicians and the island’s government as support for its independence from Beijing.
Additional joint drills in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan were announced by the People’s Liberation Army on Monday, the Defence Ministry and its Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement.
The exercises are intended as a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the US and Taiwan”, the ministry said.
China’s previous two weeks of threatening exercises prompted Taiwan to put its military on alert but were met largely with defiance and apathy among the public.
In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, the chair of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defence Committee, Lo Chih-Cheng, met the US lawmakers and said: “Their visit at this time is of great significance, because the Chinese military exercise is (intended) to deter US congressmen from visiting Taiwan.
“Their visit this time proves that China cannot stop politicians from any country to visit Taiwan, and it also conveys an important message that the American people stand with the Taiwanese people.”
China says it wants to use peaceful means to bring Taiwan under its control, but its recent sabre-rattling has emphasised its threat to take the island by military force.
The earlier drills appeared to be designed as a rehearsal of a blockade or attack on Taiwan, forcing the cancellation of commercial flights and disrupting shipping to Taiwan’s main ports as well as cargo passing through the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The five-member congressional delegation was led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and met other government and private sector representatives.
Investment in Taiwan’s crucial semiconductor industry and reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait were expected to be key topics of discussion.
The other members of the delegation are Republican Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democrats John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California and Don Beyer from Virginia.
A senior White House official on Asia policy said last week that China had used Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, jeopardising peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.
“China has overreacted, and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilising, and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, a deputy assistant to President Joe Biden, said on a call with reporters.