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For the first time since 1979, U.S. military officials are planning to take part in an annual Taiwanese military exercise.

The United States withdrew its military presence from Taiwan in 1979, when it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Taiwan broke from China during that nation’s 1949 Communist revolution; Beijing considers it a rogue province.

U.S. Pacific Command officials confirmed they would send representatives to an exercise this summer for “Han Kuang No. 19,” annual drills Taiwanese military commanders conduct every year.

“We routinely interact with Taiwan on matters of defense,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jensin Sommer, PACOM spokeswoman. “As a matter of practice, we don’t discuss those details.”

One PACOM official confirmed that “a few observers” would be headed for Taiwan for a command-post exercise. The exercise was described as being largely a commander’s drill and not one involving troops in the field.

China voiced concerns to Washington after reports of U.S. military officials attending the exercises hit Taiwanese newspapers.

Beijing made “serious representations” demanding the U.S. end “all military interaction between the United States and Taiwan,” according to the statement. China said the move “brings harm to China-U.S. relations.”

China has threatened to reclaim the island by force. The United States never formally has supported that aspiration. But military ties between Taiwan and Washington have grown since President Bush said he would help defend Taiwan should it be invaded.

China-U.S. relations also have improved steadily since the downing of a Navy EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane that flew from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in April 2001. Twenty-four crewmembers were detained on China’s Hainan island after a collision with a Chinese fighter plane over the ocean.

That same year, Bush offered to sell Taiwan diesel-electric-powered submarines, Kidd-class destroyers and 13 P-3C Orion planes.

Last November, the USS Constellation made a four-day port call in Hong Kong and USS Paul F. Foster visited Qingdao, marking the first time U.S. ships stopped in Chinese ports since the EP-3 incident.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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