Members of a new US congressional delegation met with Taiwan's president less than two weeks after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to the island nation.
China has announced fresh military drills around Taiwan, as a delegation of visiting United States lawmakers met the island's leader after a similar trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi heightened fears of conflict.
Additional joint drills in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan were announced by the People’s Liberation Army on Monday, the Defense Ministry and its Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.
The five-member congressional delegation – led by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts – met with President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, according to Washington's de facto embassy.
"The delegation had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan," it said.
The bipartisan trip sparked a caustic response from Beijing, which said it had carried out "combat readiness patrol and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island" on Monday.
"This is a solemn deterrent against the US and Taiwan for continuing to play political tricks and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," Shi Yi, spokesman for the Chinese military's Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement, promising to "resolutely defend national sovereignty".
Taiwan's government has accused Beijing of using Pelosi's visit as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.
'Firm and forcefully measures'
China's Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan but says it will use force if necessary to take the island and bristles at any perceived treatment of it as a sovereign nation-state.
In response to the delegation's visit, Beijing called on Washington to "stop going further down the wrong path of hollowing out and distorting the one-China principle, so as not to cause further damage to China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".
"China will take firm and forceful measures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.
Taipei has remained defiant throughout the standoff with Beijing, with foreign minister Joseph Wu saying after a meeting with the delegation that their visit showed the island had not been cowed by China's threats.
"Authoritarian China can't dictate how democratic Taiwan makes friends, wins support, stays resilient and shines like a beacon of freedom," Wu said in a tweet.
"Their visit once again demonstrates that China cannot dictate nor instruct other countries' politicians not to visit Taiwan," Lo Chih-cheng, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told AFP.
That decades-old threat was reiterated in a white paper published last week when China's Taiwan Affairs Office said it would "not renounce the use of force" against its neighbour and reserved "the option of taking all necessary measures ".
It added, however: "We will only be forced to take drastic measures to respond to the provocation of separatist elements or external forces should they ever cross our red lines."