Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, marking the third visit by a U.S. dignitary this month, defying pressure from Beijing to halt the trips.
Blackburn arrived in Taiwan’s capital Taipei on board a U.S. government aircraft, live television footage from the downtown Songshan airport showed. She was received on the airport tarmac by Douglas Hsu, director general of Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry, Blackburn’s office said.
“Taiwan is our strongest partner in the Indo-Pacific Region. Regular high-level visits to Taipei are long-standing U.S. policy,” Blackburn said in a statement. “I will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island.”
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory against the strong objections of the democratically elected government in Taipei, launched military drills near the island after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited in early August.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Blackburn was due to meet President Tsai Ing-wen on her trip, which ends on Saturday, as well as top security official Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
“The two sides will exchange views extensively on issues such as Taiwan-U.S. security and economic and trade relations,” the ministry added in a brief statement.
Taiwan’s presidential office said Tsai will meet Blackburn on Friday morning. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Blackburn earlier voiced support for the trip by Pelosi, a member of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.
Pelosi’s visit infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time and by ditching some lines of dialogue with Washington.
She was followed around a week later by a group of five other U.S. lawmakers, with China’s military responding by carrying out more exercises near Taiwan.
The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
China has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters