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China starts military exercises amid second Taiwan visit from U.S. lawmakers

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (R) listens to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (L), D-Mass., during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday. Photo by Wang Yu Ching/Taiwan Presidential Office/EPA-EFE
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (R) listens to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (L), D-Mass., during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday. Photo by Wang Yu Ching/Taiwan Presidential Office/EPA-EFE

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The Chinese military began live drills around Taiwan on Monday, coinciding with the arrival of another U.S. congressional delegation to Taipei.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, 22 Chinese military aircraft and six naval ships breached Taiwan's air defense identification zone on Sunday, just as a delegation led by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., arrived on the island.

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A spokesman for China's defense ministry condemned the visit, calling it a provocation that deters peace.

"This is a resolute counterstrike and solemn deterrence to the consecutive provocations by the U.S. and Taiwan that undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," said Wu Qian, a spokesman for China's defense ministry.

RELATED Sen. Ed Markey leads congressional delegation to Taiwan after Pelosi visit

Markey, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee, arrived late Sunday with four other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation.

The group plans to reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan and meet with elected leaders and members of the private sector to discuss "reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic cooperation, including investments in semiconductors," according to a statement from Markey's spokesperson.

Markey's visit to Taiwan comes on the heels of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to the island earlier this month. Pelosi became the first House speaker to visit Taiwan since 1997.

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"Now more than ever, America's solidarity with Taiwan is crucial," Pelosi said while receiving Taiwan's highest civilian honor, the Order of Propitious Clouds, from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

After Pelosi's visit, Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, also announced an increase in military operations around Taiwan. Those exercises included joint naval and air force training exercises, live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait and missile tests in the waters off the east coast of the island.

The American delegations have been popular with the Taiwanese government and people. Tsai said they view it as a sign of support from the United States amid growing threats from the Chinese government.

RELATED House Speaker Pelosi defends Taiwan trip, calls Chinese president 'a bully'

"We hope to continue to deepen our cooperation with the U.S. to jointly maintain prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and we also hope we can work with like-minded international friends to strengthen economic and investment relations in order to set up a safer supply chain," Tsai said.

Last week, Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council said its polls showed that 90% of respondents oppose the military drills and Beijing's ongoing efforts to isolate Taipei diplomatically.

"Taiwan's mainstream public opinion firmly opposes the Chinese Communist Party's threat of force," the agency said.

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The other members of Markey's delegation were Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., Don Beyer, D-Va., Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican delegate for American Samoa.

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