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Taiwan president extends goodwill after China drills, US lawmakers arrive

Published 05/25/2024, 11:10 PM
Updated 05/26/2024, 11:26 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Taiwan President Lai Ching-te makes a speech during his visit to a military camp in Taoyuan, Taiwan May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan President Lai Ching-te extended goodwill towards and offered cooperation with China on Sunday following two days of Chinese war games near the island, as a group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taipei.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, carried out the military drills on Thursday and Friday, calling them "punishment" after Lai's inauguration speech on Monday which Beijing called another push for the island's formal independence.

China has repeatedly lambasted Lai as a "separatist". Lai rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims and says only Taiwan's people can decide their future. He has repeatedly offered talks but been rebuffed.

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the southern city of Tainan, Lai called on China to "share the heavy responsibility of regional stability with Taiwan", according to comments provided by his party.

Lai, who won election in January, said he also "looked forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation with China via exchanges and cooperation, creating mutual benefit and moving towards a position of peace and common prosperity".

He thanked the United States and other countries for their expressions of concern about the Chinese exercises.

"The international community will not accept any country creating waves in the Taiwan Strait and affecting regional stability," Lai added.

The first group of U.S. lawmakers to visit Taiwan since Lai took office arrived on the island on Sunday for a four-day visit, led by Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

McCaul, joined by a bipartisan group of five other lawmakers, will meet Lai on Monday morning to "exchange views on peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific", Taiwan's presidential office said.

"Taiwan is a thriving democracy. The U.S. will continue to stand by our steadfast partner and work to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait," McCaul said in a statement.

Taiwan's government has condemned China's war games.

Over the past four years, China has staged regular military activities around Taiwan as it seeks to pressure the island's government.

On Sunday, Taiwan's defence ministry said the garrison on Erdan islet, part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands that sit next to China's Xiamen and Quanzhou cities, had discovered a "crude" cardboard box containing paper with political slogans on it, written in the simplified Chinese characters used in China.

The ministry said the box was suspected of being dropped by a drone outside the line of sight, adding, "It is a typical cognitive operation trick."

In 2022, Taiwan shot down a drone off Kinmen after complaining of days of harassment.

China's defence ministry did not answer calls outside of office hours.

© Reuters. Taoyuan, Taiwan May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Ann Wang

China's military has kept up a barrage of propaganda videos and animations directed at Taiwan since the exercises began.

Its Eastern Theatre Command, which ran the drills, showed a video on Sunday of rockets firing in what it referred to in English as "cross-strait lethality".

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