A US delegation of lawmakers has arrived in Taiwan for a two-day visit during which they will meet President Tsai Ing-wen – the second high-level group to come amid continued military tensions with the island’s giant neighbour, China.
Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has held major military manoeuvres around the island to express its anger at this month’s visit to Taipei by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The de facto US embassy in Taipei on Sunday said the delegation is being led by Senator Ed Markey, who is accompanied by four other lawmakers on what it described as part of a larger visit to the Asia-Pacific region.
“The delegation will meet with senior Taiwan leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, global supply chains, climate change, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” said the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents the US government on the island because they do not have official relations.
Taiwan’s presidential office said the group would meet Tsai on Monday morning.
“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,” it said in a statement.
China views Taiwan as its own territory.
China patrols continue
Beijing has heavily criticised the trip by Pelosi, who was the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan in decades.
Taiwan has accused China of using her visit as an excuse to kick-start military drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.
It held its own exercises simulating a defence against a Chinese invasion of its main island. China drew down its drills but said it would continue to patrol the Taiwan Strait.
In its daily update, Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that it detected 22 Chinese planes and six ships operating around the Taiwan Strait.
Of those, 11 planes crossed the median line, an unofficial demarcation between Taiwan and China that Beijing does not recognise.
China last week vowed zero tolerance for “separatist activities” in Taiwan and reaffirmed its threat that it would take control of the self-ruled island by force if provoked.
“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a white paper.
China will “not renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures”.
It added, however: “We will only be forced to take drastic measures to respond to the provocation of separatist elements or external forces should they ever cross our red lines.”