TAIPEI, Taiwan: China announced more military exercises around Taiwan as the self-governing island’s president met with members of a new US congressional delegation on Monday, following a recent visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi between Beijing and Washington. Tensions threatened to renew, which angered China.
Pelosi was the highest-level member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Her visit threatened nearly two weeks of military drills by China, which claims the island as its own. In those exercises, Beijing fired missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait and sent warplanes and naval ships across the midline of the waterway, which has long been a buffer between the sides that split in 1949 amid civil war.
China accuses the U.S. of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between U.S. politicians and the island’s government. Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island and maintains that the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully. Still, it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.
American and Taiwanese officials have accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for intimidating moves. A senior U.S. official recently said that Washington would continue to deepen its ties with Taiwan in the coming days and weeks.
The latest trip began Sunday with little notice ahead of time and drew more ire from China. The delegation was due to leave late Monday.
“China will take resolute and strong measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Monday after Beijing announced new drills in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan. “A handful of U.S. politicians, in collusion with the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, are trying to challenge the one-China principle, which is out of their depth and doomed to failure.”
The new exercises were intended to be a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the U.S. and Taiwan,” the Defense Ministry said earlier.
It was unclear if the new drills had already started since the ministry gave no details about where and when they would be conducted, in contrast to previous rounds.
The U.S. lawmakers, led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, met with President Tsai Ing-wen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and legislators, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island.
At their meeting, Tsai said her administration was working with allies to ensure stability in the Taiwan Strait and maintain the status quo — a reference to the island’s self-governance, separate from Beijing.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has shown the threat that authoritarian nations pose to the global order,” Tsai said.
Markey responded that Washington and Taipei had a “moral obligation to do everything we can to prevent an unnecessary conflict, and Taiwan has demonstrated incredible restraint and discretion during challenging times.”
The senator also highlighted legislation intended to boost political and economic ties with Taiwan, especially in the critical semiconductor industry. Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors. Beyond the geopolitical risks of rising tensions in the region, an extended crisis in the Taiwan Strait could have major implications for international supply chains when the world is already facing disruptions and uncertainty.
Markey is one of the few members of Congress still serving who voted for the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that ensured continued relations with the island following the switch of U.S. diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The other delegation members are Republican Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democrats John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California and Don Beyer from Virginia.
China says it wants to use peaceful means to bring Taiwan under its control, but its recent sabre rattling has emphasized its threat to take the island by military force. The earlier drills appeared to be a rehearsal of a blockade or attack on Taiwan that would force the cancellation of commercial flights and disrupt shipping to Taiwan’s main ports as well as cargo passing through the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The exercises prompted Taiwan to put its military on alert but were met mainly with defiance or apathy among the public used to living in China’s shadow.
The American “visit at this time is of great significance because the Chinese military exercise is (intended) to deter U.S. congressmen from visiting Taiwan,” Lo Chih-cheng, the chair of the Taiwan legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said after meeting with the U.S. lawmakers.