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US lawmakers meet Taiwan president amid China anger

August 15, 2022

President Tsai Ing-wen has met with a five-member delegation of US Congress which arrived on the island less than two weeks after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit.

US lawmakers in Taiwan
The delegation of American lawmakers arrived to Taiwan on a US government planeImage: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AP Photo/picture alliance

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen met on Monday with a delegation of US Congress members in a further sign of support among American lawmakers for the self-governing island that China claims as its own territory.

The bipartisan, five-member delegation is led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The group will meet with government and private sector representatives. Reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in Taiwan's crucial semiconductor industry are expected to be key topics of discussion.

In response, China condemned the visit and on Monday launched fresh military drills around the island.

Why the visit is significant

The unannounced two-day trip came after Beijing sent warships, missiles and jets into the waters and skies around Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that China's leaders claim and have vowed to one day seize.

Their arrival on the island also comes less than two weeks after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which prompted days of threatening military exercises by China, including the firing of missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan: Renewed fear of war

China has also sent warplanes and navy ships across the waterway's median, which has long been a buffer between the sides that separated amid civil war in 1949. China regards formal contacts between US politicians and the island's government as support for its independence from Beijing.

"Especially at a time when China is raising tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the region with military exercises, Markey leading a delegation to visit Taiwan once again demonstrates the United States Congress' firm support for Taiwan," Tsai's office said in a statement. 

Visits of American officials to Taiwan

The other members of the delegation are Republican Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democrats John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California, and Don Beyer from Virginia.

Visits by senior US officials to Taiwan have happened for decades and even Pelosi's trip was not without precedent with previous house speaker Newt Gingrich visiting the island in 1997.

Ed Markey posing with Alexander Tah-ray Yui on Sunday
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey met with Taiwanese foreign affairs official Alexander Tah-ray Yui on SundayImage: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AP Photo/picture alliance

But the frequency and profile of US visits has increased both under former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.

Taiwan has also seen a flurry of delegations visit from Europe and other western allies in recent years, partly in response to Beijing's more aggressive stance under Chinese President Xi Jinping.

How China reacted to the visit

Beijing launched fresh military drills around Taiwan on Monday, which the People's Liberation Army described as "a stern deterrent to the United States and Taiwan continuing to play political tricks and undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

Earlier, on Sunday, China's state-run news agency Xinhua published an editorial calling the American lawmakers opportunists. The agency accused the delegation of traveling to improve their chances at the midterm elections in November.

"Those US politicians who are playing with fire on the Taiwan question should drop their wishful thinking," the editorial read. "There is no room for compromise or concessions when it comes to China's core interests."

China's embassy in Washington also urged the US to respect the "One China" policy.

zc,dh/jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters)