China has reacted angrily to another visit to Taiwan by a US congressional delegation, warning Washington against “playing with fire,” as Beijing announces new military drills around the self-ruled island.
"US politicians should stop playing with fire on Taiwan question," read the headline of a commentary published by China’s state news agency Xinhua on Sunday in response to the latest visit to Chinese Taipei by American lawmakers.
The article dismissed the visiting delegation as opportunists thinking about their own political interests as the November midterm elections draw near.
"Those US politicians who are playing with fire on the Taiwan question should drop their wishful thinking," the article noted. "There is no room for compromise or concessions when it comes to China's core interests."
The congressional delegation arrived in Taipei on Sunday in an unannounced visit just days after China concluded the first-of-its-kind air and sea military maneuvers around the territory in response to the earlier visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Zero tolerance for 'separatist activities'
The latest visit by the American legislators came as Beijing vowed zero tolerance for "separatist activities" in Taiwan earlier this week and reiterated its threat to take control of the self-ruled island by force if provoked.
"We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form," China's Taiwan Affairs Office emphasized in a white paper on Taiwan, the first in two decades, issued last Wednesday.
China will "not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures," the white paper stressed, adding that the country will "only be forced to take drastic measures to respond to the provocation of separatist elements or external forces should they ever cross our red lines."
The five-member US delegation, led by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, is due to meet with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and attend a banquet hosted by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu during the visit, according to the island’s foreign ministry.
They will discuss "US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, global supply chains, climate change and other significant issues of mutual interest", the American Institute in Taiwan declared in a statement.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry further hailed the delegation's visit as another sign of warm ties between Taipei and Washington in a Sunday statement.
"As China is continuing to escalate tensions in the region, the US Congress has again organized a heavyweight delegation to visit Taiwan, showing a friendship that is not afraid of China's threats and intimidation, and highlighting the US' strong support towards Taiwan," it stated.
China declares new maneuvers around Taiwan
China’s military, meanwhile, announced new military exercises on Monday in the sea and airspace around Chinese Taipei a day after it concluded its largest-ever drills to protest last week’s visit to the self-ruled island by the top US legislator.
China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it would conduct joint drills in the area focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations — confirming concerns voiced by military analysts and diplomats that Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan’s defenses would persist.
The duration and precise location of China’s latest drills is not yet known, but Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six earlier Chinese exercise areas surrounding the island.
Beyond the firing of 11 short-range ballistic missiles during Beijing’s four earlier days of exercises, its warships, fighter jets and drones maneuvered extensively around the island.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Chinese military ships, aircraft, and drones had simulated attacks on the island and its navy. It said it had sent aircraft and ships to react “appropriately.”
The Chinese defense ministry, meanwhile, maintained its diplomatic pressure on Washington, defending its shelving of military-to-military talks in response to Pelosi’s visit.
“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is entirely provoked and created by the US side on its own initiative, and the US side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement.
“The bottom line cannot be broken, and communication requires sincerity,” Wu added.
China called off formal talks involving theater-level commands, defense policy coordination, and military maritime consultations following Pelosi’s trip to Taipei.