RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With military maneuvers around Taiwan, China increases pressure on the democratic island republic and the United States. Following an announcement about the exercises by the People’s Liberation Army, Foreign Office spokesman Zhao Lijian said the maneuvers were “a counter-reaction to the negative actions of the U.S. and the recent visit of U.S. senators” to Taiwan.
Spokesman Lijian was referring to the surprise visit to Taipei today (Friday) by a U.S. congressional delegation led by influential Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. China considers Taiwan only part of the People’s Republic and strongly opposes such official diplomatic contacts with the Taipei government.
According to Chinese military sources, attacks were also practiced during the maneuvers in the sea area and airspace around Taiwan. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fears have been growing that Beijing, too, might make good on its repeated threats to conquer the island. The U.S. long ago committed itself to Taiwan’s defense capabilities and is supplying weapons.
CHINA WARNS U.S.
The U.S. congressional leaders’ visit is intended to demonstrate “rock-solid” U.S. support for Taiwan. During the meeting with President Tsai, Senator Graham voiced sharp criticism of Beijing and also referred to its political backing for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine war. “We start with China paying a higher price for what it does around the world,” Graham said. “Support for Putin has to come with a cost.”
The senator asserted that the United States would continue to stand with Taiwan should China step up its provocations. Giving up Taiwan means giving up democracy, freedom, and free trade, the senator said. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proves that democracies must strengthen their alliances,” Taiwan’s president said. “Together, we can defend against threats from authoritarian systems that seek to disrupt regional peace.”
Despite Chinese saber-rattling, Beijing’s foreign office spokesman instead accused the U.S. of being to blame for tensions between China and Taiwan because it supported Taiwanese “independence forces.” “Those who play with fire end up burning themselves.” The Taiwan issue, he said, is an “internal matter” of China that does not allow foreign interference.