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US Reaffirms Taiwan Support            01/24 11:17

   The U.S. has reaffirmed its support for Taiwan following China's dispatch of 
warplanes near the island in an apparent attempt to intimidate its democratic 
government and test the resolve of the new American presidential administration.

   BEIJING (AP) -- The U.S. has reaffirmed its support for Taiwan following 
China's dispatch of warplanes near the island in an apparent attempt to 
intimidate its democratic government and test the resolve of the new American 
presidential administration.

   The U.S. State Department on Saturday said it was concerned by China's 
"pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan."

   "We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure 
against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan's 
democratically elected representatives," Ned Price, a spokesman for the 
department, said in the statement.

   Taiwan's Defense Ministry said China on Saturday sent eight bombers capable 
of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets into its air defense 
identification zone just southwest of the island. The ministry said China on 
Sunday sent another 16 military aircraft of various types into the same area.

   The ministry said Taiwan responded by scrambling fighters, broadcasting 
warnings by radio and "deploying air defense missile systems to monitor the 
activity."

   There was no immediate Chinese comment on Sunday.

   The overflights were part of a long-standing pattern of incursions aimed at 
pressuring the government of President Tsai Ing-wen into caving to Beijing's 
demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory.

   They come on the heels of President Joe Biden's inauguration, emphasizing 
the island's enduring position in the panoply of divisive issues between the 
sides that also include human rights, trade disputes and, most recently, 
questions about China's initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

   Biden's administration has shown little sign of reducing pressure on China 
over such issues, although it is seen as favoring a return to more civil 
dialogue.

   The State Department statement on Saturday said Washington will continue to 
deepen ties with Taiwan and ensure its defense from Chinese threats, while 
supporting a peaceful resolution of issues between the sides.

   In another sign of support for Taiwan, the island's de-facto ambassador to 
Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, was an invited guest at Biden's inauguration.

   And in a final swipe at China, the Trump administration's outgoing U.N. 
ambassador tweeted that it's time for the world to oppose China's efforts to 
exclude and isolate Taiwan, drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

   Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the 
U.N. General Assembly Hall where the island is banned. She carried a handbag 
with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan's 
representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.

   Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949 and China says it is 
determined to bring the island under its control by force if necessary. The 
U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but is 
legally required to ensure Taiwan can defend itself and the self-governing 
democratic island enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.

   Tsai has sought to bolster the island's defenses with the purchase of 
billions of dollars in U.S. weapons, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, 
armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships 
and land targets. She has also boosted support for Taiwan's indigenous arms 
industry, including launching a program to build new submarines to counter 
China's ever-growing naval capabilities.

   China's increased threats come as economic and political enticements bear 
little fruit, leading it to stage war games and dispatch fighter jets and 
reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis toward the island of 24 million 
people, which lies 160 kilometers (100 miles) off China's southeast coast 
across the Taiwan Strait.

 
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