China holds military drills as US lawmakers visit Taiwan; Senator Lindsay Graham says Beijing must ‘pay a higher price’

China said its military drills were held on Friday to bolster its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, as visiting US lawmakers in Taiwan made an explicit and public statement of their support for island democracy. autonomous while issuing a warning to China.

The six lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning and were also due to meet the island’s defense minister.

Military exercises conducted by the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command in areas opposing Taiwan were “a countermeasure to recent negative actions by the United States, including the visit of a delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan “Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

China “will continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the United States “will stand up for what we love, we will stand with you.”

US Delegation in Taipei
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, April 15, 2022.

Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

“To give up Taiwan would be to give up democracy and freedom…it would reward the worst in humanity.”

“We are going to start making China pay a higher price for what it is doing all over the world. Support for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin must come at a price,” he said.

China is against any official exchange between the Taiwanese government and other foreign governments because it claims that Taiwan is part of its national territory and not an independent country. China and Taiwan separated after a civil war in 1949.

The Eastern Theater Command described the drills in a statement as “a necessary action based on the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and the need to safeguard national sovereignty.”

“Taiwan is a sacred and inalienable part of Chinese territory. There is no room for any foreign interference on the Taiwan issue,” the statement said.

As part of the delegation of visiting U.S. lawmakers, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey delivered a speech on Friday praising Taiwan’s democracy and its global status as a maker of semiconductor chips used in everything, from cars to smartphones, and warned of the consequences if that status were jeopardized.

“It’s a country of global importance, global consequence, global impact, and so you have to understand that Taiwan’s security has global impact for those who would wish it ill,” said Menendez, head of relations. exteriors of the Senate. Committee, in a speech to the Taiwan Presidential Office.

He stressed that “we are not looking for conflict with China because I think Taiwan is not looking for conflict with China.”

The delegation, led by Graham, also includes Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, Senator Robert Portman of Ohio, Senator Benjamin Sasse of Nebraska and Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas.

Graham tweeted a photo of the US delegation after arriving in Taiwan, writing, “The brave people of Taiwan are great allies of the United States and a beacon of freedom in a troubled region.”

Tsai said she welcomed their visit and hoped it would help further deepen US-Taiwanese cooperation.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved that democracies must strengthen their alliances and collectively we can defend ourselves against threats posed by authoritarian nations seeking to disrupt regional peace,” Tsai said.

The United States is the democratic island’s biggest unofficial ally and has stepped up arms sales to Taiwan in recent years. By law, the United States is required to assist Taiwan with weapons of a defensive nature. However, the question of whether the United States would intervene in the event of a military invasion by China remains open.

AFP contributed to this report.

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