Chinese military carries out ‘combat readiness’ patrols near Taiwan Strait amid surprise US lawmakers’ visit

China’s military carried out “combat readiness” patrols in the direction of the Taiwan Strait yesterday as a US Congressional delegation made a surprise visit to Taipei, offering strong support to the Chinese-claimed, democratically governed island.

he five members of the US House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night for a previously unannounced two-day trip, the second time in a month US lawmakers have visited.

As with the last visit, China’s military announced the patrols in the vicinity of the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait that separates the island from its giant neighbour.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said it had “organised naval and air forces to continue combat readiness police patrols in direction of the Taiwan Strait”.

“Taiwan is part of China’s territory, and defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity is our military’s sacred mission.” It gave no details.

As part of its daily update of Chinese air operations near the island, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said eight air force aircraft, including two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

This was well away from mainland Taiwan but close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands located at the top of the South China Sea.

China routinely denounces visits by US politicians to Taiwan, and its foreign ministry said it had made a formal complaint to Washington about the latest trip by the bipartisan congressional group, saying playing the Taiwan card was “a losing hand”.

Meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at her office earlier yesterday, the leader of the US delegation praised the island as a “force for good” in the world.

“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and has remained steadfast as the ties between us have deepened. Taiwan is a democratic success story and a force for good in the world,” said Mark Takano, chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The US, like most countries, has no official ties with Taiwan but is the island’s most important global backer and arms supplier

Nancy Mace, who is part of the delegation, tweeted that China’s US embassy “demanded we cancel the trip” when news of it broke. “We didn’t,” she added. 

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims. Ms Tsai has vowed to maintain peace with China, but said she will defend Taiwan if attacked.

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