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US Republican lawmaker says China 'bullying' Taiwan

February 22, 2024

US Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin has reached Taipei with a delegation of other lawmakers to meet Taiwan's president and president-elect.

US Representative Mike Gallagher meets with Tsai Ing-wen at the Presidential Office in Taipei
Gallagher's solidarity trip to Taiwan comes during his last term in the US House, as he earlier announced he would not run for another 2-year congressional term Image: TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE/Handout/AFP

A US delegation led by Republican lawmaker and vocal China critic Mike Gallagher arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for meetings with the island's top leadership.

Gallagher, the chair of the House of Representatives Select Committee on China, was accompanied by four other lawmakers on the trip that ends Saturday.

Gallagher: 'The United States stands with Taiwan'

"Time and again, Taiwan has shown the world how to stand up to the CCP's [Communist Party of China] bullying and not only survive but thrive," Gallagher said in a statement that was released after the delegation's arrival.

"The United States stands with Taiwan. By promoting deeper ties between our leaders and our economies, we can enhance peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the statement said.

Outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen welcomed the US lawmakers, thanking them for the "staunch US support for Taiwan's democracy through concrete action."

President Tsai Ing-wen (C) posing for photographs with US representatives led by Mike Gallagher (5th L) at the Presidential Office in Taipei.
The bipartisan delegration of Republicans and Democrats vowed support for Taiwan during the visit, despite their political differences at home Image: TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE/Handout/AFP

"We will continue to advance our international partnerships and engage with the world. In 2024, we hope to see even more Taiwan-US exchanges in a range of domains," she said.

The delegation's visit will focus on US-Taiwan relations, regional security and trade, among other issues, according to a committee statement.

"Today we come, as Democrats and Republicans, to show our bipartisan support for this partnership, which thanks to your leadership is stronger and more rock-solid than ever," Gallagher told Tsai in the presidential office in a meeting which was broadcast live online.

"Today, freedom is under attack from authoritarian aggression and we need to be more vigilant than ever if we want to pass on this gift of freedom we have been given to the next generation," he said, calling Tsai "a leader within the free world."

The lawmakers' visit comes after last month's presidential election in Taiwan that saw current Vice President Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party emerge victorious.

Beijing has called Lai a "troublemaker" and a "separatist."

Is Taiwan living on borrowed time?

US delegation also meets President-elect Lai Ching-te 

In a separate meeting, Vice President Lai Ching-te, who assumes the presidency on May 20, said that facing great pressure from China, Taiwan will continue to enhance its self defense.

Gallagher, in response, said the US will deepen partnership with Taiwan as Lai takes office  and that if China attempts to invade Taiwan the effort would fail.

The United States is Taiwan's most significant ally.

The island has been at the center of soaring tensions with China, which claims it as its territory.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the visit by the US lawmakers to Taiwan on Thursday, saying it opposed Washington's interference in Taiwan affairs "in any way and under any pretext."

"We urge the United States to recognize the extreme complexity and sensitivity of the Taiwan issue," said ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

Two years ago, a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei had led to China dispatching warships and military aircraft to all sides of the island democracy and firing ballistic missiles into the waters nearby.

China-Taiwan conflict: How it could ruin the global economy

dvv/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)