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House lawmakers visit Taiwan as China warns US to stay out

– A group of House lawmakers is in Taiwan this week meeting with its newly elected officials, despite warnings from China to stay out of the region and as Beijing ramps up its military drills around the island.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, is leading the multi-day diplomatic trip, which is coming a week after President Lai Ching-te and his deputies took office with a defiant speech emphasizing Taiwan’s independence from Beijing’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

‘Leading this historic and bipartisan CODEL to Taiwan — the first U.S. congressional delegation to meet with the newly elected Taiwan officials — sends a signal to the Chinese Communist Party that the United States stands with the people of Taiwan and will work to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Straight,’ McCaul told Fox News Digital. ‘I look forward to meeting senior Taiwan leaders and members of civil society to continue strengthening our bilateral relationship on all fronts.’

The bipartisan group also includes Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., the panel’s subcommittee chair for the Indo-Pacific, along with Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

Panetta told Fox News Digital the trip sent a critical pro-democracy message throughout the globe.

‘Democracies around the world must stand together in defense of our shared values and freedoms,’ Panetta said. ‘This bipartisan delegation to Taiwan is a demonstration of that necessary partnership. I look forward to congratulating President Lai Ching-te on his recent inauguration and continuing to strengthen the bonds between our two nations with an eye toward the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the region.’

China’s military, meanwhile, has been exercising a menacing show of force in drills involving ‘sea assaults, land strikes, air defense and anti-submarine in the airspace and waters to the north and south of Taiwan Island,’ Beijing’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Beijing’s Defense Ministry said the drills included ‘joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets’ and were ‘a strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces.’

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said it had tracked 49 Chinese military planes and 19 of China’s Navy ships operating around the Island on Friday. It blasted China’s drills as an ‘irrational provocation.’

In his inaugural speech, Taiwan’s President Lai said he sought to ‘neither yield nor provoke’ Beijing but pledged to stand firm against China’s encroachment.

The Chinese government has rebuked the new leader, and a top CCP official issued a direct warning to U.S. lawmakers not to meet with him or other Taiwanese government officials.

‘Any visit by congressional members to Taiwan will seriously violate the one-China principle . . . interfere in China’s internal affairs, undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and send a seriously wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said late last week.

Wenbin called on the U.S. to stop official diplomatic communications with Taiwan, ‘Otherwise, all consequences arising therefrom must be borne by the U.S.’

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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