China demands the US stop any official contact with Taiwan following a congressional visit

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, second right, shakes hands with members of United States Congressmen as Rep. Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, right, looks on during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. A group of United States Congress members met with Taiwan's president Thursday in a show of support that's certain to draw scrutiny from China, which opposes such visits and sees them as a challenge to its claim of sovereignty over the island. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — China responded sternly Thursday to a U.S. congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan, demanding the U.S. stop any official contact with the self-governing island.

“China opposes any form of official interaction between the U.S. and Taiwan authorities and rejects U.S. interference in Taiwan affairs in whatever form or under whatever pretext,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. She urged Washington to be “mindful of the extreme complexity and sensitivity” of the Taiwan issue.

Mao spoke shortly after leaders of the House Select Committee on China’s Communist Party met with Taiwanese leaders on a high-profile trip aimed at showing U.S. support for the island’s democratically elected government.

The congressional visit drew a stronger-than-usual response. Beijing has long protested any official interaction the U.S. and Taiwan but is particularly dissatisfied with the House select committee, which was formed in 2023 and is known for its hawkish views of China’s ruling party.

However, the visit is unlikely to trigger major military actions as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit did in the summer of 2022. Beijing and Washington are seeking to stabilize their rocky relations following a November meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The congressional visit coincided with an announcement by the U.S. State Department of a $75 million arms sale to Taiwan. The sale is relatively minor in size and does not include weaponry. Instead, it covers communications and global positioning systems as well as related technology.

Mao criticized the sale as “undermining China’s sovereignty and security interests and harming China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The U.S. is obligated under a 1979 law to provide Taiwan with sufficient military hardware and technology to deter invasion, and its arm sales to Taiwan have always drawn strong opposition from Beijing, which considers the island as part of Chinese territory and vows to take it, by force if necessary.

Taiwan is also part of the $95 billion aid package that passed the Senate this month but has stalled in the House. That package, which focused on Ukraine and Israel, included $1.9 billion to replenish U.S. weapons provided to Taiwan. An additional $3.3 billion would go to build more U.S.-made submarines in support of a security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.

In Taiwan, Rep. Mike Gallagher, the select committee’s Republican chair, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, its Democratic ranking member, suggested ways to speed up the delivery of military weapons to Taiwan, including joint production of some weapons that do not need intellectual property transfer, according to a report by Central News Agency, the island’s main wire service.

The delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and also President-elect Lai Ching-te. Lai, who won a three-way race in January and will take office in May.

“Today, we’ve come as Democrats and Republicans to show our bipartisan support for this partnership, which, thanks to your leadership, I think is stronger and more rock solid than ever,” Gallagher said during the meeting with Tsai.