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US-China-Taiwan tensions rise amid Chinese air incursions

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By Josephine Joly with AP
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Taiwan's deputy foreign minister Harry Tseng (R) greets French Senator Alain Richard (2nd R) leading a delegation arriving at the Taoyuan international airport on October 6.
Taiwan's deputy foreign minister Harry Tseng (R) greets French Senator Alain Richard (2nd R) leading a delegation arriving at the Taoyuan international airport on October 6.   -   Copyright  CNA POOL / AFP
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US Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with China's Foreign Policy Adviser Yang Jiechi in Switzerland on Wednesday, as the two countries find themselves at odds on a variety of issues, including Taiwan and trade.

The meeting comes after the White House on Monday criticised Beijing over several days of sustained military harassment against the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

The Biden administration also raised concerns that Beijing was undermining regional peace and stability with its "provocative" action.

In recent days, China has sent about 150 fighter planes into Taiwan's air defence zone, including a record 56 on Monday.

China's latest provocations occurred after Taiwan applied to join a major regional trade pact, to which Beijing is strongly opposed.

China claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and refuses to recognise the island's government and has increasingly sought to restrict the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Under longstanding policy, the US provides political and military support for Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to defend it from a Chinese attack.

US President Joe Biden has repeatedly called out China for what his administration sees as Beijing's coercive trade practices and human rights abuses against ethnic minorities.

Taiwan's Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng has warned China will be capable of mounting a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, insisting that military tensions with Beijing are at their worst point in 40 years.

"We don't want to take any provocative actions, but if we irritate them, it is like irritating a person: a person would employ everything at hand when irritated. So, following our judgement, 2025 is the year they will have more comprehensive military capabilities," Kuo-cheng declared.

Despite Taipei's growing concern, President Biden said he and his Chinese counterpart had agreed to stick to the current status quo.

"I've spoken with [Chinese President] Xi about Taiwan, we agree we will abide by the Taiwan agreement. That's who we are and we made it clear that I don`t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement," Biden said.

French senators arrive in Taiwan amid tensions with China

Meanwhile, amid strong protests from China, a group of French senators, including former Defence Minister Alain Richard, arrived in Taiwan for a five-day visit Wednesday.

The group will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanese economic and health officials, and the Mainland Affairs Council.

China's ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, sent a warning letter in February calling on Richard to cancel the Taiwan visit, according to local media reports.

Beijing is vehemently opposed to Taipei having official diplomatic exchanges with other countries.