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China holds military drills near Taiwan as US lawmakers visit

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China announced more military drills around Taiwan as the islands’ president met with members of a new US congressional delegation on Monday, a further sign of US 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 House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ trip to Taiwan, which prompted days of threatening Chinese military exercises, including firing missiles 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 waterways, which has long been a buffer between the sides that broke up amid civil war in 1949. China considers contacts officials between American politicians and the island government as support for its independence from Beijing.

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

The exercises are designed as a resolute response and a 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 US lawmakers and said, their visit at this time is of great significance, as the he Chinese military exercise is (planned) to deter US congressmen from traveling to 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, Lo said. .

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 Taiwan’s main ports as well as goods 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.

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