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China announced live-fire drills near the Taiwan Strait on Friday as a US official visited Taipei in defiance of Beijing’s threats.

The drills are “necessary” to deal with the “current situation” in the Taiwan Strait and will help People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops “defend national unity and territorial sovereignty,” said Colonel Zhang Chunhui, spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as one of its provinces and prohibits other countries from maintaining formal ties with Taipei.

Nevertheless, senior US envoy Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to attend a memorial service for former president Lee Teng-hui.

Krach’s is the second trip to Taiwan by a senior US official in two months, after the secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, became the highest-level US official to visit Taiwan since 1979.

China lodged “solemn” protests with the United States regarding Krach’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday.

“China firmly opposes any forms of official ties between the US and Taiwan,” Wang said.

Tensions between China and the US have escalated on several fronts over the past year, with the two countries sparring over trade, the coronavirus pandemic, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

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