Renewed Chinese military activity near Taiwan has been reported less than a week after Beijing concluded two days of war games. Taiwan's defense ministry announced on Wednesday that Chinese warships and warplanes were conducting "joint combat readiness patrols" around the island. This development follows China's recent military exercises, which Beijing described as a response to President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech, where he asserted that Taiwan and China are "not subordinate to each other."

China views Taiwan as its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve reunification. Lai, however, rejects China's sovereignty claims, insisting that only the people of Taiwan can decide their future. Despite offering talks with Beijing, Lai's overtures have been consistently rebuffed. Taiwan's defense ministry reported detecting 28 Chinese military aircraft, including Su-30 fighters, operating around the island and engaging in patrols with warships. Eighteen of these aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line and entered Taiwan's airspace.

Taiwan's National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen emphasized that China's recent drills were intended to intimidate rather than initiate conflict. "The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," Tsai stated, adding that the drills were aimed at demonstrating Beijing's control over the Taiwan Strait. In Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated complaints about Lai and warned of continued military activity, describing the drills as a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Taiwan maintains that it is already an independent country, known as the Republic of China, a government that fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists. China, however, asserts that any decision on Taiwan's future should be made by all of China's 1.4 billion people, not just Taiwan's 23 million inhabitants. Beijing has proposed a "one country, two systems" model, similar to Hong Kong, but this idea has little support in Taiwan.

Chinese military activity around Taiwan has been a frequent occurrence over the past four years, part of Beijing's strategy to exert pressure on the island. However, the recent drills appear to have been carefully contained to avoid escalation and international intervention. Tsai's bureau noted that the exercises lasted only two days and did not include no-fly or no-sail zones, suggesting an effort to avoid further provocation.

In a related development, a second U.S. congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan this week, underscoring bipartisan American support for the island amid rising tensions with China. The delegation, led by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), followed a visit by Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas). These visits come despite Chinese officials' objections and amid a critical period in Taiwanese politics.

Taiwan's legislature, controlled by opposition parties favorable to Beijing, recently passed a bill that sparked protests over concerns it would reduce the president's powers. President Lai's Democratic Progressive Party, which favors strong ties with the United States, faces significant opposition from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People's Party (TPP).

During their visit, the U.S. delegation met with Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim and other officials, reinforcing the United States' commitment to Taiwan's democracy. Senator Sullivan emphasized the importance of bipartisan support for Taiwan in the face of increasing threats from China, stating, "It is critical that America show steady, unwavering bipartisan commitment and resolve in support of Taiwan's democracy."

Senator Duckworth echoed this sentiment, highlighting the significance of supporting allies like Taiwan amid escalating Chinese military threats. The United States maintains strong unofficial ties with Taiwan, adhering to a policy of "strategic ambiguity" regarding the defense of the island.

The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., criticized the U.S. lawmakers' visits, urging them to stop interfering in China's internal affairs and to cease supporting Taiwanese independence. "The Taiwan question is at the very core of China's core interests and is the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations," the embassy stated.