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BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China responded angrily and said it had protested to Washington after a U.S. Senate committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy for the first time since the United States adopted a one-China policy in 1979.
The call for the port visits was contained in a version of the U.S. National Defense Authorization Bill approved by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. The bill would have to pass the full Senate and House and be approved by President Donald Trump to become law.
Asked about the provision, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Thursday called it meddling in Beijing's internal affairs and added: "China cannot accept it."
The legislation calls for the reestablishment of regular port visits by the U.S. Navy to the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung, or any other suitable port, and would allow the U.S. Pacific Command to receive Taiwanese visits.
The bill also directs the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an indigenous undersea warfare program and recommends strengthened strategic cooperation with Taipei.
"We express grave concern and firm opposition to the relative bill passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee," Lu Kang said. "We have also lodged solemn representations about the Taiwan related content of the bill with the relevant department of the U.S. government."
The spokesman said the bill was in violation of the principles of U.S.-China relations and called on Washington to halt military drills with and arms sales to Taiwan "to avoid further impairing broadly cooperative China-U.S. relations."The progress of the bill coincides with, according to U.S. officials, Trump becoming increasingly frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and trade.
According to the officials, Trump - who alarmed Beijing after assuming office by breaking with decades of precedent and talking to Taiwan's president - is now considering trade actions against Beijing, despite having heaped praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping after an April summit.
The U.S. Navy has not made port calls to Taiwan since 1979, when Washington adopted the so-called one-China policy, recognising Beijing rather than Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.
U.S. officials said in March the administration was crafting a big arms sale to Taiwan, but such talk died down as Trump sought to persuade China to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, an increasing threat to the United States.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in WASHINGTON; editing by Grant McCool