China has launched military exercises near Taiwan after decrying a visit to the island by United States legislators as a “serious violation”.
In an announcement on Tuesday, China’s Ministry of National Defense said the drills in the area of the Taiwan Strait were a “necessary measure to safeguard national sovereignty”.
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That came shortly before the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called a visit by US legislators to the island, which China considers a renegade province, a “serious violation” of US commitments not to have formal relations with Taiwan.
“China is firmly opposed to that and has made solemn representations to the US,” Wang said at a daily briefing on Wednesday.
The legislators arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday on board a C-40 Clipper jet, which departed soon afterwards, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that congressional visits often use military planes and that the trips to the island “are relatively common and in keeping with US obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act.”
The US, like many countries, switched recognition from the exiled government in Taipei to the People’s Republic of China in Beijing in 1979 but maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” with the island under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
Washington has repeatedly said it supports Taiwan’s self-defence and opposes “any unilateral changes to the status quo”. However, the White House was quick to walk back US President Joe Biden’s pledge in October that Washington would intervene in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
That statement enraged Beijing, raising already heightened tensions between the two superpowers.
China has not ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control and has repeatedly accused the US and other countries of interfering in what it considers domestic affairs related to the island.
China has repeatedly sent fighter jets close to Taiwanese airspace in recent months and has held military training exercises simulating a beach invasion.
In early October, during China’s National Day weekend, China dispatched a record 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations, causing Taiwan to scramble aircraft and activate its air defence missile systems.
Weeks later, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed to broadcaster CNN that the US had a small number of military personnel conducting training on the island. The US has not publicly acknowledged the training mission.
The legislators’ current trip had been coordinated through the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the de facto US embassy and Taiwan’s foreign ministry, spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters.
No further details of the trip have been released.