US lawmakers meet with Taiwan president in surprise visit

US lawmakers meet with Taiwan president in surprise visit

Taipei — Five US lawmakers met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Friday morning for a surprise one-day visit aimed at reasserting “rock strong” US support for the self-governing island.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy, ​​said the bipartisan group of lawmakers from the US House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night and were planning to meet with top leaders including Tsai. No further details were provided about the itinerary.

The visit comes at a time when tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades. Taiwan has been self-governing since the two sides split during a civil war in 1949, but China considers the island part of its territory.

“When news of our flight broke yesterday, my office received an explicit letter from the Chinese Embassy asking me to cancel the flight,” Representative Elisa Slotkin, a member of the delegation, wrote on Twitter.

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Actors Mark Takano, D-Calif., Colin Allred, D-Texas, Sarah Jacobs, D-Calif, and Nancy Mays, R.S., are also part of the visiting delegation.

“We are here in Taiwan this week to remind our partners and allies that, after two years of trying, our shared commitment and responsibility for a free and secure Indo-Pacific remains stronger than ever,” Takano said.

Takano added that the relationship between the United States and Taiwan “is very solid and has remained consistent as our relations have deepened.”

Tsai, who welcomed lawmakers and director of the AIT at the presidential office in Taipei, noted the two sides’ cooperation on veterans’ affairs, economic issues and trade while emphasizing the island’s close alliance with the United States.

“Taiwan will continue to intensify cooperation with the United States to uphold our common values ​​of freedom and democracy and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” Tsai said.

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This is the third visit by US lawmakers to Taiwan this year and comes a few weeks after a group of six Republican members of Congress visited the island. That delegation met with President Tsai, Secretary General of National Security Wellington Coe and Secretary of State Joseph Wu, among others.

In June, three members of Congress traveled to Taiwan to donate much-needed vaccines at a time when the island was struggling to get enough.

The Biden administration also invited Taiwan to a summit for democracy next month, a move that drew sharp rebuke from China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday: “What the United States has done proves that the so-called democracy is only a pretext and a tool for it to achieve its geopolitical goals, oppress other countries, divide the world, serve its own interests and maintain hegemony in the world.”

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