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China launched military drills around Taiwan, slamming the country’s vice president and election frontrunner Lai Ching-teh for visiting the United States this week.

The drill, which the PLA called a “serious warning against ‘Taiwan independence’ forces colluding with external forces to provoke,” came after Lai returned on Friday from one of the most low-key visits to the United States by a top Taiwanese politician. Last few years.

Lai made brief stops in New York and San Francisco en route to and from the inauguration of the new president in Paraguay, one of Taiwan’s last remaining diplomatic allies.

During his U.S. stopover, his only public appearances were short speeches at two dinners with the overseas Taiwanese community, making Lai’s trip the first in years that a president or vice president has been more silent than the last.

The Chinese government and the Communist Party’s Taiwan Affairs Office have accused Lai Zhi of “shamelessly ‘using the United States to seek independence'” and rebuked him for meeting with U.S. officials, including Interior Secretary Deb Harlan, who was interviewed by Bloomberg during his visit . Jimmy Lai met with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Spanish King Felipe IV.

The statement said: “His actions fully prove that he is a 100% ‘Taiwan independence’ element, a troublemaker through and through, and will only push Taiwan into a dangerous situation of war.”

The United States allows Taiwanese officials to transit when they visit diplomatic allies, with timing and conditions varying according to the state of bilateral relations and cross-strait tensions.

In recent years, Washington has given Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen an increasingly generous treatment, allowing her to speak publicly to American audiences, sometimes for more than one night. During her last visit in April, Tsai met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet a Taiwanese president on U.S. soil.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to take it by force, and has said it particularly dislikes Lai’s lead in opinion polls ahead of next January’s presidential election. The U.S. and Taiwanese governments have made arrangements to avoid any incident that China could claim to be provocative and have repeatedly urged Beijing not to use the crossing as a pretext for new military intimidation.

Officials in Taipei and Washington, however, still expect Beijing to respond with military drills, as Beijing retaliated last August for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, which lasted more than a week and included a visit to Missiles were fired from Taiwanese airspace and continued for three days in April. After Tsai Ing-wen met with McCarthy.

In contrast to those drills, the PLA on Saturday did not say it would hold a multi-day exercise — a discrepancy that some observers cited as reason for wanting Beijing to maintain a more moderate response.

The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, which is in charge of Taiwan, said the exercise included joint sea-air combat readiness patrols, as well as joint drills by sea, air and other forces that focused on sea-air coordination. Seize control” and other tasks to test “joint combat capability under actual combat conditions.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry denounced Beijing, accusing it of irrational and provocative actions. The statement said that China dispatched military planes and warships to harass Taiwan, causing serious damage to regional security.

The Ministry of National Defense stated that taking the opportunity to launch this military exercise not only does not help the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, but also highlights the militaristic mentality and confirms its hegemonic military expansionist nature.

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