World: China to restart military drills as more U.S. lawmakers, including 2 Californians, visit Taiwan

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  How is China trying to redefine power balance in Taiwan Strait? Beijing's pledge to conduct "regular patrols" near Taiwan after large-scale military drills points to a worrisome and dangerous development, according to analysts.After seven days of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan, the Chinese People's Liberation Army announced on Wednesday that the drills-- held in response to a recent visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- had concluded. Beijing, however, pledged to continue "regular combat readiness patrols" in the area, raising the possibility of frequent Chinese military operations near the self-governed democratic island.

China announced more military drills around Taiwan as the island’s president met Monday with a new delegation of U.S. Congress members — including two from California — whose visit offered a further sign of support among American lawmakers for the self-governing island Beijing claims as its own.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), left, and Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), second left, arrive with their wives at Taiwan's parliament Monday. (Johnson Lai / Associated Press) © (Johnson Lai / Associated Press) U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), left, and Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), second left, arrive with their wives at Taiwan's parliament Monday. (Johnson Lai / Associated Press)

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 U.S. government plane.

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The visit came less than two weeks after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, which prompted days of threatening military exercises by China, including the firing of missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait. Pelosi was the highest-level member of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China has also sent warplanes and naval ships across the waterway's median, which has long been a buffer between Taiwan and the mainland, which separated politically in 1949 after civil war. China regards formal contacts between U.S. politicians and the island's government as support for its independence from Beijing.

Additional drills by China's People's Liberation Army will take place in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan, the Chinese Defense Ministry and its Eastern Theater Command said in a statement Monday.

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The exercises are intended as a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the U.S. and Taiwan," the ministry said.

China's previous two weeks of threatening exercises prompted Taiwan to put its military on alert, but were met largely with defiance and apathy among the Taiwanese public.

In Taipei, the chair of the legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee, Lo Chih-Cheng, met with the U.S. lawmakers and said that “their visit at this time is of great significance, because the Chinese military exercise is [intended] to deter U.S. congressmen from visiting Taiwan."

“Their visit this time proves that China cannot stop politicians from any country to visit Taiwan, and it also conveys 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 saber-rattling has emphasized its threat to reunify by force if necessary. The earlier drills appeared to be designed as a rehearsal of a blockade or attack on Taiwan, and forced the cancellation of commercial flights and disrupted shipping to Taiwan's main ports as well as cargo passage through the Taiwan Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

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  Pentagon is prepared to protect Pelosi with fighter jets and ships if she visits Taiwan after China warned her not to, report says China threatened to involve its military if Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan next month. China opposes any recognition of Taiwan as its own country. In recent months, the country has stepped up its rhetoric and military actions toward Taiwan, with Chinese planes carrying out multiple training exercises near Taiwan's air space.The US publicly showed support for Taiwan after Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year. Taiwanese leaders have expressed fears that China would do the same in Taiwan.

The five-member U.S. congressional delegation is led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and includes Reps. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). The group was expected to meet with other Taiwanese government and private sector representatives. Reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in Taiwan's crucial semiconductor industry were expected to be key topics of discussion.

A senior White House official on Asia policy said last week that China had used Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, jeopardizing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.

“China has overreacted, and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, a deputy assistant to President Biden, said on a call with reporters.

“It has sought to disregard the center line between [China] and Taiwan, which has been respected by both sides for more than 60 years as a stabilizing feature,” he said.

China accuses the U.S. of encouraging independence forces in Taiwan through its sale of military equipment to the island and engagement with its officials. The U.S. says it does not support independence for Taiwan but that the island's differences with China should be resolved by peaceful means.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long said that it favors Taiwan joining China peacefully but that it will not rule out force if necessary. The two split in 1949 after a civil war in which the Communists took control of China and the losing Nationalists retreated to the island.

Campbell, speaking Friday, said the U.S. would send warships and planes through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks and is developing a road map for trade talks with Taiwan that he said the U.S. intends to announce in the coming days.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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