U.S.' pressuring campaign will only make China more united: Chinese FM

Alex Azar met President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing in Beijing that the epidemic in the United States was "out of control" and the blame lay with Mr Azar.

INTERPRETER: We once again warned the U.S. that China is firmly opposed to the USA and Taiwan engaging in official exchanges under any pretext.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has vowed to bring it under its rule, by force if necessary.

About 3 hours after the budget announcement, China's People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command said its forces had in recent days carried out combat drills in the Taiwan Strait and to the north and south of the island, implying they were aimed at Azar's trip.

China warned Washington not to "play with fire" on Wednesday as a USA delegation wrapped up a historic trip to the self-ruled island of Taiwan. Wednesday is the last day of Azar's schedule during the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic ties between Washington and Taipei in 1979.

Azar laid flowers, and wrote in the condolence book, "President Lee's democratic legacy will forever propel the US-Taiwan relationship forward".

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, loathed Lee.

Azar repeatedly stressed during the meetings that he was speaking for the administration of President Donald Trump, apparently to underscore the USA administration's hardline stance toward China and its closeness to Taiwan.

Both Washington and Taipei had portrayed Mr Azar's trip as an opportunity to learn from the success of Taiwan's battle against Covid-19.

It called for Azar's trip to be cancelled and Taiwan accused Beijing of sending fighter jets over a de facto border on Monday, the day the United States health chief met President Tsai Ing-wen.

Amid tensions with Taiwan, China's foreign ministry said today that despite Taiwan increasing its military budget next year its "fight against the mainland is like a worm shaking a tree".

Earlier, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told the online event she had made expanding accelerating development of Taiwan's asymmetric defense capabilities its number-one priority. China denies the charge, saying it communicated information as soon as it had it.

The United States has ramped up arms sales to Taiwan, including tanks and fighter jets, and has taken an increasingly strident position in supporting Taiwan's role on the worldwide stage, particularly at the World Health Organization (WHO).

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