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US ‘strongly’ urges China restraint amid Taiwan drills

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The United States “strongly” urged China to show restraint Thursday after it launched military drills around Taiwan following the inauguration of a new president, describing Beijing’s actions as “reckless”.

Washington had “noted with concern” and was “closely monitoring” the drills that China said were punishment for Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration speech, a senior US official said.

“We strongly urge Beijing to act with restraint,” the Biden administration official said, warning China not to use Taiwan’s political transition as a “pretext or excuse for provocative or coercive measures.”

China’s actions were “reckless, risk escalation, and erode longstanding norms that have maintained regional peace and stability for decades,” the official added.

The United States, which recently approved billions in military aid for Taipei, was “confident in our current force posture” in the region.

The Chinese drills came after President Lai said in his inaugural speech on Monday that Taiwan “must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation”.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has denounced Lai’s speech as a “confession of independence.”

Washington and Beijing have been trying to thaw their relations recently, with President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping meeting in California last year. However, Taiwan remains a major source of tension.

A senior US general said earlier that the Chinese drills were expected but “concerning”.

“We expected something like this, frankly,” US Lieutenant General Stephen Sklenka, the US Indo-Pacific Command deputy commander, told an audience in Canberra.

“Just because we expect that behavior does not mean that we should not condemn it — and we need to condemn it publicly,” he said.

“It is concerning.”

Sklenka said other nations besides the United States should speak out against the drills.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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