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Beijing holds military exercises ahead of U.S. official's high-level visit to Taiwan

The trip follows a declaration from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. will no longer restrict contacts with Taiwan.

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South China Sea
A Chinese destroyer commissioned to South China Sea. October 2020
(STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Updated: January 12, 2021 - 11:22pm

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In the waning days of the Trump Administration, leaders in Beijing are angered by fresh American diplomatic moves regarding Taiwan, and have staged military activity near the island nation.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, arrives Wednesday in Taipei for a three-day official visit. The trip follows a recent declaration from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. will no longer observe self-imposed restrictions on contacts with Taiwan.

"Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and reliable partner of the United States, and yet for several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials' interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts," Pompeo said on Saturday. "The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more."

Craft's Jan. 13 visit to Taipei will include meetings with Taiwan's president and foreign minister, and marks a high profile way to enact the new policy.

In remarks on Tuesday, Beijing lobbed verbal salvos at Pompeo over numerous diplomatic sore points, and objected to the new policy.

"It is the solemn pledge of the U.S. side not to have official interactions with the Taiwan region," China's foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told reporters in Beijing on Jan. 12. "It should honor its commitment and not misinterpret or deviate from it under any pretext."

The communist government in Beijing claims that the independent Taiwan actually belongs to the communist mainland.

Meanwhile, Beijing in recent weeks has staged military activities and fly-bys around the island. The activities include missile drills in the East China Sea, and assault training exercises.

Chinese military aircraft have entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone nine times this year, according to statements from the Ministry of Defense. On Tuesday, the ministry reported, three such aircraft — including a tactical reconnaissance plane — entered the zone. Taiwan's air force responded by scrambling fighter jets to escort and warn the Chinese aircraft out of the area.

Beijing did not connect the military actions to political changes in Washington, but Zhao on Tuesday made remarks that seemed to be directed at the incoming Biden administration.

"We urge the U.S. side to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, stop manipulating Taiwan-related issues and stop going further down the wrong and dangerous path," Zhao said.

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