Washington on Monday said that US members of Congress would continue to visit Taiwan, while condemning China for restarting live-fire exercises around Taiwan amid a visit to Taipei by US lawmakers, saying it was an “overreaction.”
China conducted drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan on Monday while a five-member US delegation led by US Senator Ed Markey was in Taipei, near the end of their 21-hour visit.
As of 5pm, China had deployed 30 warplanes and five military vessels in areas around Taiwan, and 15 of the aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of National Defense said.
Asked about Beijing’s response to Markey’s visit at a news briefing, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said that any response to a peaceful visit “that entails bellicose rhetoric or military maneuvers or provocative actions is totally unnecessary and an absolute overreaction.”
Members of the US Congress have visited Taiwan for decades, with about 10 or more congressional delegations having visited Taiwan this year alone, and they would continue to do so, Price said, adding that the practice is in line with the US’ longstanding “one China” policy.
The US has taken measured and responsible steps in response to Beijing’s maneuvers so as not to escalate the situation, Price said.
However, “we won’t be deterred from flying, from sailing, from operating in the region in accordance with international law,” he added.
US President Joe Biden on Friday directed the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, operating in the Philippines, to remain on station longer than planned, and announced that additional steps in support of Taiwan would be forthcoming, Price said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that 33 US members of Congress have visited Taiwan since last year, continuing what has been decades of US visits.
This year alone, Taiwan has welcomed 19 US lawmakers — eight senators and 11 representatives — in addition to the three senators and 11 representatives who visited last year, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a regular news briefing.
Meanwhile in Singapore, US Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas yesterday called China’s decision to fire missiles over Taiwan a “gorilla in the room” that must be challenged.
“It’s very important that we contest this type of thing,” Thomas told reporters. “If we just allow that to happen, and we don’t contest that, that’ll be the next norm.”
The Seventh Fleet is based in Japan and is a core part of Washington’s navy presence in the Pacific.
Thomas compared the threats against Taiwan to the South China Sea where Beijing spent years constructing military bases and facilities on a series of contested atolls, which it has denied doing.
“If you don’t challenge it ... all of a sudden it can become just like the islands in the South China Sea [that] have now become military outposts,” he said. “They now are full-functioning military outposts that have missiles on them, large runways, hangars, radars, listening posts.”
Speaking to Radio Free Asia on Monday, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) bears all responsibility for cross-strait crises.
Armitage, who visited Taiwan in April last year with an unofficial delegation sent by Biden, said that Xi has made many mistakes, including miscalculating the US’ support for Taiwan, supporting Russia in its war in Ukraine and its “zero COVID” strategy.
He is now facing economic and diplomatic fallout from these mistakes for which he must bear responsibility, challenging his bid to retain the presidency later this year, Armitage said.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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