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US lawmakers’ visit to Taiwan angers Beijing

In protest against the visit of the five congressmen, China’s army has started new maneuvers off the Taiwanese coast.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu welcomes the five US congressmen in Taipei. During their visit, the American leaders also met President Tsai Ing-wen.

Taiwan Presidential Office / Reuters

After a five-member US Congressional delegation landed in Taiwan on Sunday evening, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army said it began new military maneuvers on Monday. Taiwanese authorities said 30 Chinese warplanes and 6 warships were involved in the exercises. The Chinese government only declared extensive military exercises over on Sunday after Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in early August.

The congressional delegation was led by Ed Markey, who serves as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee officer for Asia-Pacific and International Cybersecurity. In her meeting with US delegates from both parties, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen described the visit as a “sure sign of rock-solid US support at a time of increasing threats from Beijing.” According to the Office of the President, the meeting addressed issues such as regional security, global supply chains, trade and investment, and climate change. On Monday evening, the delegation set off on its journey home.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has sharpened its stance on the democracy of 23 million people in recent years. China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping is aiming for Taiwan’s unification with mainland China during his reign and, if in doubt, he says he would also use military force to do so.

Beijing had warned of the consequences

The Chinese government reacted with outrage to the most recent visit, the first visit by lawmakers to Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing had repeatedly warned Washington of the consequences if the Americans persisted with the visit. The renewed visit violated China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. China’s unification with Taiwan is a “historic trend,” the spokesman said, and “cannot be changed.” China refuses US interference in its “internal affairs”.

Before meeting Taiwan’s President Tsai, the visitors from the US met with eight Taiwanese MPs. At the meeting, the Taiwanese called for closer US military cooperation with Taiwan. The visitors from Washington also wanted to know from their Taiwanese counterparts whether the US should take a clearer stance on Beijing than in the past. The Taiwanese MPs wished for closer cooperation with the United States. Just before leaving, the American lawmakers met with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

Increased risk of a military conflict

Even though the US government has declared that it intends to continue to adhere to the one-China policy, tensions between China, Taiwan and the US have recently increased significantly. To the extent that the USA is increasingly seeking proximity to Taiwan and is also supporting the island republic with symbolic gestures such as the Pelosi visit, Beijing is increasing the political, economic and military pressure on Taiwan. The fact that Xi has declared the unification of Taiwan and China a historic mission greatly increases the risk of a military clash.

There is growing concern in Taiwan and other countries that China’s government will use repeated military exercises and increased pressure to try to prevent foreign politicians from visiting Taiwan and thus isolate the island republic. China’s extensive military exercises after Pelosi’s visit were certainly a turning point. Going forward, China’s maneuvers in close proximity to Taiwan are likely to increase in scope and intensity.

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