Democrat-led congressional delegation makes surprise trip to Taiwan

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan drew a furious response from China that included firing missiles over the island, another Democratic-led delegation of lawmakers arrived in Taipei Sunday amid heightened tensions.

China announced Monday that it will conduct new military exercises in response to the latest visit by U.S. officials.

The U.S. lawmakers, led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, and legislators, according to a statement from the American Institute in Taiwan. Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-Cali.), John Garamendi (D-Cali.), Don Beyer (D.-Va.), and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the Republican House delegate from American Somoa, joined Markey on the trip.

“In all of these meetings, the delegation had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan,” the statement read.

The chair of the Taiwanese legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, Lo Chih-cheng, praised the lawmakers’ visit, calling it one “of great significance, because the Chinese military exercise is [attempting] to deter U.S. congressmen from visiting Taiwan,” according to a report by The Los Angeles Times. 

“Their visit this time proves that China cannot stop politicians from any country to visit Taiwan, and it also conveys an important message that the American people stand with the Taiwanese people,” Lo said.

Speaking at a daily briefing Monday in response to the back-to-back trips to Taipei by U.S. officials, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that Beijing “will take resolute and strong measures to defend [China’s] national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” surrounding Taiwan, according to an Associated Press report.

“A handful of U.S. politicians, in collusion with the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, are trying to challenge the one-China principle, which is out of their depth and doomed to failure,” Wengbin continued, adding that the new exercises over Taiwan’s skies and sea are intended to be “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the U.S. and Taiwan,” the Defense Ministry said earlier.

Information as to where and when the new drills will be conducted has not yet been specified.

Pelosi was the highest-level member of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Her trip was viewed by China as a significant provocation of tensions over the island, which China claims is part of its territory. Beijing made good on its threats to retaliate against a visit by the House speaker by launching missiles and sending warplanes and naval ships over the midline of the strait separating China’s mainland and Taiwan long considered to be a buffer zone between the two sides.

China has accused Washington of supporting the island’s independence by supplying Taipei with weapons and ongoing engagement between U.S. politicians and the Taiwanese government. 

The Biden administration recently flip-flopped on its stance supporting Taiwan’s independence in the form of a U.S. State Department revision to a Fact Sheet which now asserts that Washington does “not support” formal independence of the self-governed island nation. The department further asserted in the revision that Washington has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, while maintaining the U.S. is legally obligated to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack. 

China has repeatedly insisted that it wants to use peaceful means to get Taiwan under its control while at the same time warning that it is willing to use force in order to do so, if necessary. That threat was further emphasized by China’s post-Pelosi-visit saber rattling. 

A senior White House official on Asia policy said on Friday that Beijing used Pelosi’s visit “as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan and to try to change the status quo, jeopardizing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.”

“China has overreacted, and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilizing, and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, a deputy assistant to President Joe Biden, said on a call with reporters.

“It has sought to disregard the centerline between the [People’s Republic of China] and Taiwan, which has been respected by both sides for more than 60 years as a stabilizing feature,” he continued.

Campbell said the U.S. would send warships and planes through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks. He also stated that a roadmap for trade talks with Taiwan is in the works, with an announcement expected in the coming days.