5 US congressmen defy China by meeting with officials in Taiwan

Washington (CNN) – Five US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to meet with Taiwanese government officials, challenging Beijing with a visit to the disputed island.

“When the news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a direct message from the Chinese embassy, ​​telling me to cancel the trip,” he wrote Thursday in Twitter Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan. “The largest microchip supplier in the auto industry is here in Taiwan. So supply chain issues will definitely be on the agenda.”

Slotkin said the trip to Taiwan came after celebrating Thanksgiving with American soldiers in South Korea. He added that the stop would be “good to connect with leaders here to discuss a lot of economic and national security issues.”

Taiwan has a tense position on the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing. Tensions have risen as China increases its military posture and fighter jet flights around the autonomous island. The visit by the congressional delegation comes on the heels of another informal visit by US lawmakers earlier this month.

House Veterans Affairs Speaker Mark Takano, D-California, led the delegation that arrived Thursday. It included Slotkin and Representatives Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican and Sara Jacobs, a California Democrat, according to Reuters, who first reported on the trip.

News of the lawmakers’ trip comes a day after the Biden administration extended an invitation to Taiwan for its “Summit for Democracy,” which will take place next month. The Chinese government called the decision a “mistake,” Reuters reported.

The US position on Taiwan

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden made it clear that he was not encouraging Taiwan’s “independence” after using the word to describe the progress he had made during a discussion about the island with his Chinese counterpart.

“I said they have to decide, Taiwan, not us. We are not encouraging independence,” Biden said on the tarmac of an airport in New Hampshire, where he was promoting his recently signed infrastructure law.

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

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

“Their independence,” he continued. “Make your own decisions.”

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

The arrival of the delegation prompted immediate condemnation from China, and Beijing described the trip as an “act of provocation.”

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry confirmed that visit, saying the trip was organized by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in Taipei. He did not reveal the names of the legislators involved in the visit, nor their itinerary.

The American Institute in Taiwan did not confirm a list of lawmakers, but directed CNN at the time to the office of Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn.

What China says about it

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters that the trip “seriously violated the one-China principle.” And he demanded that the United States “immediately stop any form of official interaction with Taiwan.”

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

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

In a statement at the time, China’s Ministry of National Defense condemned the United States for “seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs.” And he said it should stop “provocative actions” that may increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

“(The United States) must refrain from sending the wrong signals to the forces of ‘Taiwan independence’,” the statement read. “The People’s Liberation Army will always be on high alert and will take all necessary measures to resolutely crush any interference by foreign forces and separatist attempts.”

Previous visits to Taiwan

The visits are not the only time that delegations of US legislators have flown to Taiwan. In June, a U.S. delegation including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, landed on a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter to announce the donation of 750,000 doses of the covid-19 vaccine. And previously, American officials and politicians flew to Taiwan on the C-40, a military version of the Boeing 737 commercial jet.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby had told reporters after the unspecified group’s visit that “the visits of the congressional delegation to Taiwan are quite routine.” And that the visit was “in accordance with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. It has been supported by multiple administrations, both Democratic and Republican. That reinforces our requirement to assist Taiwan with its self-defense needs.”

Relations between Beijing and Taipei

China escalates tension with Taiwan with warplanes 2:38

Relations between Taipei and Beijing are at their lowest point in decades.

Last month, China’s armed forces sent a record number of warplanes to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Taipei says it will respond to any incursions into that area surrounding the island.

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

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