China held military exercises near Taiwan on Friday, April 15, after a U.S. congressional delegation visited the island.

Beijing authorities expressed strong opposition to the visit by six U.S. lawmakers from both chambers of Congress.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian described the military drills as “a countermeasure to the recent negative actions of the U.S., including the visit of a delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan.”

Reuters reported that the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command sent many different aircraft types, including destroyers, frigates, bombers, and fighter jets, to the East China Sea and the area around Taiwan.

The Chinese army said in a statement, “The U.S. bad actions and tricks are completely futile and very dangerous. Those who play with fire will burn themselves.”

China has been opposing any official cooperation between Taiwan and other foreign governments because it regards Taiwan as one of its provinces and not an independent country.

Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the U.S. would continue to support Taiwan even when Beijing was “very unhappy” with the delegation’s visit.

Senator Lindsey Graham told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that the Russia-Ukraine war and provocative behavior by China had united U.S. opinion in a way not seen before.

Graham said, “We will stand with you. To abandon Taiwan will be to abandon democracy and freedom.”

He added, “There’s a backlash growing in the world to thuggery – to the bad guys.”

The six lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning and will also schedule to meet with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng.

According to The Washington Times, the delegation included Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as a leader, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, Senator Robert Portman of Ohio, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas.

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