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China kicks off another military drill as US envoy visits Taiwan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The missile destroyer Jinan of the Chinese Navy fires an anti-ship missile during a military drill held in the East China Sea. (File photo)

China has launched military drills near the Taiwan Strait as a senior US official is visiting the self-ruled island in Washington's latest move to bolster its support of the island in defiance of Beijing.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang announced on Friday that war games are taking place near the Taiwan Strait.

“They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ren said.

“Recently the United States and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have stepped up their collusion, frequently creating disturbances,” he said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party.

Ren also warned that trying to “use Taiwan to control China” or “rely on foreigners to build oneself up” is wishful thinking and doomed to be a dead end. “Those who play with fire will get burnt,” he added.

The Chinese spokesperson gave no further details about the military exercises, but the Taiwanese defense ministry said on Thursday that China was sending two anti-submarine aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone.

Taiwan's defense ministry said on Friday that multiple Chinese air force jets crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait and also into Taiwan's southwestern air defense identification zone. Taiwan scrambled fighters to monitor their activities, the ministry added. 

China has sovereignty over Taiwan; and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries — including the United States — recognize that sovereignty.

Although Washington has no formal relations with Taipei, it is the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan’s secessionist president.

On Thursday, US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan. He was expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.

According to the Taiwanese foreign ministry, Krach is the highest-level official from the State Department to visit the island in decades.

China has already filed a formal complaint with the US over the visit.

China has repeatedly warned Washington against ties with Taiwan.

The administration of President Donald Trump announced last month that it was establishing a new economic dialogue with Taiwan focused on technology, health care, energy and other sectors.

Washington has also stepped up military support for Taiwan in recent years through increased arms sales.

It is now pushing the sale of seven large packages of weapons to the island.

The new proposal includes missiles that would allow Taiwanese jets to hit Chinese targets, according to US officials familiar with the proposal.

If approved by Congress, it would be one of the largest weapons transfers in recent years to Taiwan.

Official Chinese newspaper, Global Times, reacted to the report of the arms sale, in an editorial, saying that once China “dispatches troops to reunify the island of Taiwan, the military equipment from the US will be nothing but decorations.”

Relations between the two world powers have hit the lowest level in decades under President Donald Trump.

The two sides have recently been engaged in a new war of words over the South China Sea — most of which is claimed by Beijing — and the developments in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where the mainland has recently introduced a new national security law.

In the South China Sea case, Washington takes sides with Beijing’s rivals in the maritime dispute and routinely sends warships and warplanes to the waters to assert what it calls its right to freedom of navigation.

China has repeatedly called on Washington to stop these provocative actions, which undermine peace and stability in the sea.

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