A delegation of US lawmakers has arrived in Taiwan just 12 days after a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prompted China to launch days of threatening military drills around the self-governing island that Beijing says must come under its control.
The five-member delegation, led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, will meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials, as well as members of the private sector, to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in semiconductors.
China responded to Ms Pelosi’s August 2 visit by sending missiles, warships and warplanes into the seas and skies around Taiwan for several days afterwards.
The Chinese government objects to Taiwan having any official contact with foreign governments, particularly with a high-ranking congressional leader like Ms Pelosi.
Mr Markey met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier on Sunday in South Korea before arriving in Taiwan on a separate flight at Taoyuan International Airport, which also serves Taipei.
Mr Markey, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee, and members of the delegation will reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan.
The other members of the delegation are Republican Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democratic House members John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal, from California, and Don Beyer, from Virginia.
Chinese warplanes have continued crossing the midpoint of the Taiwan Strait on a daily basis even after the conclusion of the military exercises last Wednesday, with at least 10 doing so on Sunday, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said.
The 10 fighter jets were among 22 Chinese military aircraft and six naval ships detected in the area around Taiwan by 5pm. on Sunday, the ministry said.
A senior White House official on Asia policy said late last week that China had used Ms Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, jeopardising peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.
“It has sought to disregard the centreline between the PRC and Taiwan, which has been respected by both sides for more than 60 years as a stabilising feature,” he said, using the acronym for the country’s full name, the People’s Republic of China.
China accuses the US of encouraging independence forces in Taiwan through its sale of military equipment to the island and engaging with its officials.
The US says it does not support independence for Taiwan but that its differences with China should be resolved by peaceful means.
China’s ruling Communist Party has long said that it favours Taiwan joining China peacefully but that it will not rule out force if necessary. The two split in 1949 during a civil war in which the Communists took control of China and the losing Nationalists retreated to the island of Taiwan.