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China Renews Warnings Amid Taiwan Visit03/30 06:05

   As Taiwan's president began a stopover in the United States on her way to 
Central America, China said it was closely watching developments and would 
"resolutely safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity."

   BEIJING (AP) -- As Taiwan's president began a stopover in the United States 
on her way to Central America, China said it was closely watching developments 
and would "resolutely safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity."

   China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by 
force if necessary, and portrays the self-governing island democracy of 23 
million people as the most sensitive issue in its increasingly fraught 
relationship with the U.S.

   On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning reiterated China's 
furious objections to any interactions between Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. officials.

   "China firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the U.S. and 
Taiwan," Mao told reporters at a daily briefing. "China will continue to 
closely follow the situation and resolutely safeguard our sovereignty and 
territorial integrity."

   China has particularly warned that a meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin 
McCarthy planned for April 5 in Los Angeles would bring a strong but as yet 
unspecified response.

   In August, Beijing responded to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to 
Taiwan by launching missiles, deploying warships across the median line of the 
Taiwan Strait and simulating a blockade of the island. China also temporarily 
suspended dialogue with the U.S. on climate and other major issues and 
restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.

   Tsai's visit aims to show that Taiwan still has allies, despite China's 
military threats and attempts to isolate it diplomatically. Most recently, the 
Central American state of Honduras switched relations from Taipei to Beijing, 
leaving Taiwan with just 13 formal diplomatic allies. Tsai accused Beijing of 
using "dollar diplomacy" to poach another Taiwanese ally.

   Tsai is expected to meet with the American Institute in Taiwan chair, Laura 
Rosenberger. AIT is the U.S. government-run nonprofit that carries out 
unofficial relations with Taiwan.

   While the U.S. terms relations with Taiwan as unofficial, it remains the 
island's chief source of military hardware and cooperation. U.S. law requires 
Washington to treat all threats to the island as matters of "grave concern," 
but does not explicitly say whether the U.S. would commit troops.

   Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday and was scheduled to spend Thursday in 
the city, but few details of the trip were made public.

   The U.S. typically foregoes any official meetings with senior U.S. leaders 
in Washington for transit stops, as is the case for Tsai's visit.

   The latest spike in tensions comes months after the passage of what the U.S. 
said was a Chinese spy balloon across the U.S., which heightened questions 
about China's intentions. China says it was a research balloon that was blown 
off course, but the Biden administration ordered it shot down over the east 
coast and canceled a planned visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to 
China in the wake of the incident.

   Along with Taiwan and frictions over trade, technology and human rights, 
China's close ties with Russia and its refusal to criticize Moscow's invasion 
of Ukraine have also increased friction between Washington and Beijing.

   Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow 
last week, underscoring the warmth of the "no-limits" relationship between the 
two authoritarian states announced just weeks before Russia's year-old invasion.

   China has provided Russia with an economic lifeline by buying up the 
oil-rich country's resources. U.S. officials say they've seen indications 
Beijing is considering selling military hardware to Moscow, although they say 
there is no evidence that has happened yet.

   Days after Xi's visit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The 
Associated Press he hoped to meet with Xi in Kyiv. China, which has put forward 
a peace proposal that says nothing about Russia withdrawing from Ukrainian 
territory it has seized, gave no immediate response about whether such a visit 
would take place.

   Also Thursday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said Xi and 
Putin had reached "a number of important new points of consensus" during their 
Moscow meetings, laying out a "blueprint for the future of relations."

   "Strategic communication and practical cooperation between the two 
militaries have never ceased moving toward a higher level," Tan said at a 
monthly briefing.

   While Tan repeated China's stance that its relations with Russia do not 
constitute a formal alliance and were not aimed at any third parties, the two 
have increasingly aligned their foreign policies in a challenge to the 
dominance of global affairs by the U.S. and other democracies.

   He also pledged regular joint air and sea patrols, exercises and training as 
the sides work together to implement "global security initiatives (and) jointly 
safeguard international fairness and justice."

   China has been steadily building up its 2-million-member armed forces -- 
already the world's largest standing military -- as well as latest-generation 
fighter jets, aircraft carriers and highly capable warships.

   U.S. military officials also say China is fast expanding its stockpile of 
nuclear weapons and recent tough-talk by Xi and other Chinese officials have 
heightened concerns over a potential attack on Taiwan or other U.S. interests.

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