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U.S. lawmakers arrived on Taiwan on Sunday as Chinese fighter jets buzzed overhead and the American State Department accused Beijing of ‘military provocations.’

China, on Thursday and Friday, conducted expansive military exercises around the island in the wake of the President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration.

Beijing called the military exercises ‘punishment’ for Lai’s inaugural address, which China described as another push for the island’s formal independence.

This week’s visit was the first by an American congressional delegation since Lai was inaugurated on May 20th. It is meant as a show of support even after Chinese officials expressed opposition to the trip by the bipartisan group of lawmakers.

‘I think it’s very important that we show our strong support for Taiwan. I think it is a deterrent,’ Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told NBC News before their arrival.

A Chinese Embassy official warned McCaul against the visit, according to an email first obtained by NBC News.

The email also described Lai’s inauguration speech as ‘the worst speech ever by a Taiwan new leader.’

‘It once again proved that Mr. Lai has chosen an independence course and is on his way to implement it,’ the email read.

The delegation’s visit also comes after Congress recently passed about $2 billion in military aid for Taiwan in hopes of enhancing its defensive capabilities against China. 

Also in the delegation are Representative Young Kim, Republican of California; Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina; Representative Jimmy Panetta, Democrat of California; Representative Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky, and Representative Chrissy Houlahan, Democrat of Pennsylvania. 

Lai, 65, who was the island’s vice president for the past four years, says he favors maintaining the status quo, neither formally declaring independence nor becoming part of China. 

He’s also said only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. He has repeatedly offered talks but been rebuffed by China.

Lawmakers will meet with Lai on Monday.

China has not ruled out the use of force in unifying with Taiwan.

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said it had tracked 49 Chinese military planes and 19 of China’s Navy ships operating around the Island on Friday. It called Beijing’s drills ‘irrational provocation.’ 

In his inauguration speech, Lai urged China to cease its political and military threats against Taiwan, which he called ‘a front-line guardian of world peace.’

‘I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan and in good faith choose dialogue over confrontation,’ Lai said, using Taiwan’s formal name.

China expressed its disapproval of Lai in joint military exercises in the Taiwan Strait and around groups of Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast, leading Taiwan’s military to mobilize its own forces.

‘This action targets the Taiwan independence forces and deters external forces from interfering, which is entirely reasonable, legal and necessary,’ Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said at a news conference in Beijing on Friday.

The U.S. State Department said on Saturday that the United States was ‘deeply concerned’ over China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait and strongly urged it to act with restraint.

‘Using a normal, routine, and democratic transition as an excuse for military provocations risks escalation and erodes longstanding norms that for decades have maintained peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,’ the State Department said in a statement.

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