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China holds military exercises as US legislators visit Taiwan

China has said it held military drills around Taiwan, as a group of United States lawmakers visited the self-ruled island in a show of support that Beijing slammed as “deliberately provocative”.

The Chinese military sent frigates, bombers and fighter planes to the East China Sea and the area around Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command said on Friday, in a statement released as the US legislators were holding a news conference in Taipei.

“This operation is in response to the recent frequent release of wrong signals by the United States on the Taiwan issue,” it said, without mentioning the visiting US delegation.

“The US bad actions and tricks are completely futile and very dangerous. Those who play with fire will burn themselves,” it said.
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In a separate statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the US visit was “deliberately provocative” and had “led to further escalation of tension in the Taiwan Strait”.

Six US legislators, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning.

The previously unannounced, two-day visit came as tensions between Beijing and Washington have increased over China’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China has taken a neutral public position since the war broke out in late February, urging nations to support efforts to reach a resolution to the conflict, while resisting pressure from Washington and its allies in Europe to condemn Russia.

US President Joe Biden has warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of “consequences” should China provide any support to Russia in its invasion, and senior members of the Biden administration have urged Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to end the war.

But Taiwan has long been among several points of contention between the US and China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and is against any official exchanges between Taiwan’s government and other foreign governments.

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