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

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WASHINGTON (AP) 鈥 China responded sternly Thursday to a U.S. congressional delegation鈥檚 visit to Taiwan, demanding the U.S. stop any official contact with the self-governing island.

鈥淐hina 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,鈥 Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. She urged Washington to be 鈥渕indful of the extreme complexity and sensitivity鈥 of the Taiwan issue.

Mao spoke shortly after leaders of the House Select Committee on China鈥檚 Communist Party met with Taiwanese leaders on a high-profile trip aimed at showing U.S. support for the island鈥檚 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鈥檚 ruling party.

However, the visit is unlikely to trigger major military actions as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi鈥檚 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 鈥渦ndermining China鈥檚 sovereignty and security interests and harming China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.鈥

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鈥檚 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鈥檚 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.

鈥淭oday, we鈥檝e 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,鈥 Gallagher said during the meeting with Tsai.

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AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report