Taiwan: five US lawmakers defy China by meeting with officials on the island

“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a direct message from the Chinese Embassy, ​​telling me to cancel the trip,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, said. wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The biggest supplier of electronic chips to the automotive industry is here in Taiwan, so supply chain issues will most likely be on the agenda.”

Slotkin said the side trip to Taiwan took place after the Thanksgiving celebration with American troops in South Korea and that the stop “would be good to connect with the leaders here to discuss a whole host of economic issues and national security ”.

Taiwan occupies a tense position in the deterioration of relations between Washington and Beijing, with tensions high as China increases its military posture and its flights of warplanes around the autonomous island. The Congressional delegation’s visit follows another informal visit by U.S. lawmakers earlier this month.
House of Veterans Speaker Mark Takano, a Democrat from California, led the delegation that arrived on Thursday. It included the other Slotkin panel members and Representatives Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, and Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from California, according to Reuters, who first reported the trip.
News of the lawmakers’ trip comes a day after the Biden administration extended an invitation to Taiwan for its “Democracy Summit,” which will take place next month – a move the Chinese government has called a “mistake.” , Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden made it clear that he was not promoting Taiwan’s “independence” after using the word to describe the progress he had made during a discussion on the island with its Chinese counterpart.

“I said they had to decide – Taiwan, not us. We are not promoting independence,” Biden said on the tarmac at a New Hampshire airport promoting his infrastructure law. recently signed.

“We encourage them to do exactly what the Taiwan law requires,” he continued, referring to the 1979 law dictating the US approach to the island. “That’s what we do. Let them decide. Period.”

Explaining his position while greeting attendees after his speech on infrastructure that day, Biden said he had made limited progress on the topic with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We made it clear that we support the Taiwan Law, and that’s it,” he said at the time.

“Its independence,” he continued. “He makes his own decisions.

Earlier this month, an unspecified group of US lawmakers landed in Taipei aboard a Boeing C-40 military plane, then took off for Okinawa after a brief stay at the airport.

The arrival of the delegation triggered an immediate condemnation from China, with Beijing calling the trip an “act of provocation.”

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the visit and said the trip was arranged by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. He did not disclose the names of lawmakers involved in the visit, or their itinerary.

The American Institute in Taiwan did not confirm a list of lawmakers, but then pointed CNN to the office of Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters the trip “seriously violates the one-China principle” and called on the United States “to immediately stop all forms of official interaction. with Taiwan “.

“We urge members of the US Congress to recognize the situation. Collaborating with ‘Taiwan independence’ forces is a dangerous game; playing with ‘Taiwan independence’ will eventually lead to a fire,” Wang said. .

Beijing sees the autonomous island as an inseparable part of its territory, even though the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.

In a statement at the time, China’s Ministry of National Defense condemned the United States for “gross interference in China’s internal affairs” and said it should end “provocative actions” that could exacerbate tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

“(The United States) should refrain from sending false signals to” Taiwan independence “forces,” the statement said. “The People’s Liberation Army will always be on alert and take all necessary measures to resolutely end all interference by foreign forces and separatist attempts.”

These visits are not the only times delegations of US lawmakers have visited Taiwan. In June, a US delegation including Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, landed aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter to announce the donation of 750,000 doses of the Covid-vaccine. 19. And before that, U.S. officials and politicians traveled to Taiwan aboard the C-40, a military version of the Boeing 737 commercial airliner.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters following the unspecified group’s visit that “Congressional delegation visits to Taiwan are quite common” and that the visit was “in line with our obligations. under the Taiwan Relations Act, which has been supported by several administrations, both Democratic and Republican, this reinforces our demand to assist Taiwan in its self-defense needs. “

Relations between Taipei and Beijing are at their lowest in decades. Last month, the Chinese military sent a record number of warplanes to the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone – the area surrounding the island where Taipei says it will respond to any incursion.

This story was updated with additional details on Thursday.

CNN’s Rachel Janfaza and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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