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ABC News

(AP)– A U.S. congressional delegation met Taiwan’s new leader on Monday in a show of support days after China held drills around the self-governing island in response to his inauguration.

Rep. Andy Barr, the co-chair of the Taiwan caucus in the U.S. Congress, said the United States is fully committed to supporting Taiwan militarily, diplomatically and economically.

“There should be no doubt, there should be no skepticism in the United States, Taiwan or anywhere in the world, of American resolve to maintain the status quo and peace in the Taiwan Strait,” the Republican from Kentucky said at a news conference in the capital, Taipei, after the delegation met Taiwan President Lai Ching-te.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must come under its control, by force if necessary. The U.S., like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by its own laws to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

The Chinese government expressed strong opposition to the congressional visit, saying it undermined China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, referring to the waterway between China and Taiwan.

The lawmakers’ five-day visit “ran against the political commitment of the U.S. government to maintain only unofficial relations with Taiwan, sending a seriously wrong signal to the separatist force of Taiwan independence,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said in Beijing.

Lai, who took office one week ago, is expected to continue the policies of Tsai Ing-wen, his predecessor from the same Democratic Progressive Party.

The new foreign minister, Lin Chia-lung, noted the recent Chinese drills and called the American delegation’s visit “an important gesture of solidarity” at a critical time.

The delegation included four Republicans and two Democrats and was led by Rep. Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Last year, China sanctioned the Texas Republican after he visited Taiwan in April.

“America is and always will be a reliable partner, and no amount of coercion or intimidation will slow down or stop the routine visits by the Congress to Taiwan,” he said.

McCaul cited congressional approval last month of a military aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. China firmly opposes the U.S. arming Taiwan, Mao said.

The other delegation members were Republicans Young Kim from California and Joe Wilson from South Carolina and Democrats Jimmy Panetta from California and Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania.

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