By Ben Blanchard and David Shepardson
TAIPEI/WASHINGTON -A delegation of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a two-day trip during which they will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, the second high-level group to visit while there are military tensions between the self-ruled island and China.
Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted military drills around the island after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in early August.
China has long claimed sovereignty over the island. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claims and says the island’s people should decide its future.
The de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said the delegation is being led by Senator Ed Markey, who is being accompanied by four House lawmakers on what it described as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.
Taiwan’s presidential office said the group would meet Tsai on Monday morning.
“Especially at a time when China is raising tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the region with military exercises, Markey leading a delegation to visit Taiwan once again demonstrates the United States Congress’ firm support for Taiwan,” it said in a statement.
Markey chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee. The co-leaders of the visit are Representative John Garamendi of the congressional Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group and Representative Don Beyer, a spokesperson for Markey said.
China’s embassy in Washington said on Sunday that “members of the U.S. Congress should act in consistence with the U.S. government’s one-China policy” and argued the latest congressional visit “once again proves that the U.S. does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Straits and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, adding that such visits were in accordance with the United States’ long-standing one-China policy.
Under that policy, the United States has official diplomatic relations with Beijing, and not Taiwan. However, Washington does not take a position on whether Beijing has sovereignty over Taiwan, and is bound under U.S. law to provide Taiwan with means to defend itself.
Markey’s office said the lawmakers in Taiwan “will reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances, and will encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait.”
The group will meet “with elected leaders and members of the private sector to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic cooperation, including investments in semiconductors,” Markey’s office said.
The delegation made a prior stop in South Korea, where Markey met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry published pictures of four lawmakers being met at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport having arrived on a U.S. air force transport jet, while Markey arrived at the Taoyuan international airport.
“The delegation will meet with senior Taiwan leaders to discuss U.S.-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, global supply chains, climate change, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the de facto U.S embassy said.
While China’s drills around Taiwan have abated, it is still carrying out military activities.
Eleven Chinese military aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line or entered Taiwan’s air defence zone on Sunday, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said. Thirteen planes crossed the strait on Saturday, the ministry said.
U.S. officials have said Beijing “overreacted” to Pelosi’s visit and used it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, and David Shepardson and Michael Martina in Washington, Writing by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Nick Macfie, Grant McCool and Diane Craft)