Five members of the US House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan Thursday night for a two-day high level visit with Taipei officials - the second such previously unannounced Congressional delegation to visit the island in less than a month.
China responded to the "surprise" visit by conducting "combat readiness" exercises in the direction of the Taiwan Strait on Friday. According to Chinese state sources, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command announced it "organized naval and air forces to continue combat readiness police patrols in direction of the Taiwan Strait."
"The relevant actions are necessary to deal with the current situation in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan is part of China’s territory, and defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity is our military’s sacred mission," the PLA Eastern Command added.
China's defense ministry separately confirmed it sent eight aircraft toward Taiwan, including a pair of nuclear-capable H-6 bombers close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands and through Taiwan's national defense identification zone. Days ago the US sent a warship through the contested Taiwan Strait for the 11th time this year, in what's become a monthly "freedom of navigation" exercise, which Beijing fiercely condemned as a destabilizing "provocation".
The US delegation which arrived Thursday included Reps Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Mark Takano (D-CA), Colin Allred (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Nancy Mace (R-SC). They touched down in Taipei on a US military C40-C transport plane, the second such American high level unannounced arrival since Nov.9.
"Madame President, I want to commend and praise your leadership. Under your administration, the bonds between us are more positive and productive than they have been for decades," said Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The delegation told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen during a Friday meeting that the democratic-run island is 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, a reliable partner and a force for good in the world," the statement added.
Meanwhile, despite tensions remaining high surrounding Taiwan and other issues such as Washington's repeat condemnation of China's human rights abuses including crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the PLA military is calling for opening up "good relations" with the US military, in order for communications to be frequent enough so as to avoid stumbling toward war.
Ministry spokesman Wu Qian in statements late this week stressed that positive dialogue would be conditioned on China's sovereignty being respected (which of course means China's claims over Taiwan must also be "respected). "As we have said many times, China has principles for the development of relations between the two militaries, which is that China’s sovereignty, dignity and core interests cannot be violated," Gen. Wu Qian stated.