Cross-party delegation from US Congress meet Taiwan’s president in defiance of China

Chinese Embassy sent ‘blunt message’ to call off trip, Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin says

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 26 November 2021 08:25
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File: US president Joe Biden meets Chinese president Xi Jingping virtually

Five US lawmakers who arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night have now met with the island’s president Tsai Ing-wen, despite warnings from China to call off the trip.

After the meeting, the president reiterated both sides’ cooperation in veteran affairs, economic issues and trade while emphasising on the island’s close alignment with the US.

“Taiwan will continue to step up cooperation with the United States in order to uphold our shared values of freedom and democracy and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” Ms Tsai said.

Taiwan has been a point of contention as tensions rose between the US and China in recent months. Taiwan has been self-ruled since it split from China after a civil war in 1949. China, however, still considers the island a part of its territory.

This trip, the second by American leaders in just a month, came as China has stepped up pressure to assert its sovereignty claims over Taiwan.

The delegation was led by House Veterans’ Affairs chairman Mark Takano, a California Democrat. It also included Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin, Texan Colin Allred, California’s Sara Jacobs, and Republican representative from South Carolina, Nancy Mace.

In a statement on Twitter, Ms Slotkin said she landed in Taiwan after spending Thanksgiving with US troops in South Korea.

“After stops in Japan and Korea, it’ll be good to connect with leaders here to discuss a whole host of economic and national security issues,” Ms Slotkin said.

“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” she said.

“But just as with other stops, we’re here to learn about the region and reaffirm the US commitment to our hosts, the Taiwanese. I’m looking forward to an informative trip,” the representative added.

In its letter to the US lawmaker, the Chinese Embassy in Taiwan said: “We strongly urge the Congresswoman immediately cancel the planned visit to Taiwan, and not to support and embolden separatist forces of ‘Taiwan independence’, lest it cause huge damage to the China-US relations and the peace and stability of Taiwan Straits,” reported NBC News.

Tensions have remained high since China’s rapid militarisation around Taiwan and US president Joe Biden’s subsequent promise last month to help Taiwan in the event of an attack from Beijing.

While the US formally recognises Beijing’s “One China Policy”, it supplies weapons to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.

This is the third visit by American leaders to the island nation this year.

A few weeks ago, six Republican lawmakers visited the island and met government officials, including President Tsai, national security chief Wellington Koo and foreign minister Joseph Wu.

And before that in June, three members of Congress flew to Taiwan to donate Covid-19 vaccines when the island was struggling.

While the itinerary of the latest visit has not been divulged, Ms Slotkin said it would include supply chain issues. “The auto industry’s largest supplier of microchips is here in Taiwan, so supply chain issues will most definitely be on the agenda.”

The visit came a day after Mr Biden invited Taiwan to the US’ upcoming Summit for Democracy next month, prompting criticism from China.

The US has invited 110 countries, including Taiwan, but excluded China and Russia.

In a statement Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “What the US did proves that the so-called democracy is just a pretext and tool for it to pursue geopolitical goals, suppress other countries, divide the world, serve its own interest and maintain its hegemony in the world.”

Mr Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping locked horns at a virtual summit last week when Mr Biden warned against “unilateral efforts to change the status quo” across the Taiwan Strait.

Additional reporting by agencies

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