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China demands US stop dealing with Taiwan; launches war drills as 6 US lawmakers visit

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen (Right) addresses Sens. Bob Menendez (left) and Lindsey Graham (center) during a press conference in Taiwan, April 15, 2022. (Screenshot)
April 15, 2022

China launched war drills around Taiwan and demanded U.S. officials stop interacting with Taiwan after six U.S. lawmakers made a surprise visit to the island this week.

On Thursday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen shared a photo welcoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Ben Sasse (R-KS) and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX).

“A warm welcome to Senator @LindseyGrahamSC, @SenatorMenendez, @SenatorBurr, @SenRobPortman, @SenSasse, Representative @RonnyJacksonTX & your delegation from the #US,” Tsai tweeted. “You’re all true friends to #Taiwan & I look forward to working with you to strengthen our countries’ partnership.”

The visit by the U.S. congressional delegation had gone unannounced until they arrived in Taiwan. The U.S. congressional visit drew immediate backlash from China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory.

The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. released a statement on Thursday saying the Congress members’ Taiwan visit “gravely violates the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three Sino-US Joint Communiques.”

“China firmly opposes this and has lodged stern representation with the US side. We urge the US side to honor its commitment of adhering to the one-China policy, earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-US Joint Communiques, immediately stop all forms of official interactions with Taiwan and avoid sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, lest it should further undermine China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the statement continued. “The Chinese side will continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also said on Thursday, “China firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the U.S. and the Taiwan region.”

“Members of the U.S. Congress should act in consistence with the US government’s one-China policy,” Zhao continued. “The U.S. side should abide by the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués, stop official exchanges with Taiwan and avoid going further down the dangerous path.”

“The Chinese side will continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao added.

Since 1972, the U.S. has recognized China and Taiwan as a single country, through the so-called “One-China Principle,” but has maintained strategic ambiguity in its stance towards Taiwan, continuing to interact with Taiwanese officials and provide defensive equipment to the island through the Taiwan Relations Act.

On Friday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command announced joint naval and aerial drills around Taiwan, as a retaliatory show of force for the visit by the U.S. congressional delegation. Eastern Theater Command spokesperson Senior Colonel Shi Yi said “the military operation is the response to the provocative moves of the US side by sending wrong signals repeatedly on the Taiwan question.”

Shi said “the misbehavior and tricks of the US side are very dangerous and will only end up in vain. Playing with fire will only get oneself burnt.”

On Friday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported six PLA fighter jets, including four J-16s and two J-11s, entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The Taiwanese military issued radio warnings to the six Chinese fighter jets, activated missile defense systems and tasked aircraft to respond to intercept the Chinese warplanes, which eventually left the ADIZ.