A group of lawmakers from both parties went to Taiwan on Thursday, one day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy went against Beijing and met with the island’s president.
According to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the United States supports Taiwan, intends to harden Taiwan, and wants them to think twice about invading Taiwan.
It was the third overseas destination for the delegation, following visits to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea. China is still angry about McCarthy’s meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, and China says the island is part of its territory. Tsai, who is traversing the United States on her way back from Guatemala and Belize, will return to Taiwan on Friday and meet with McCaul’s delegation on Saturday.
The U.S.-China relationship has deteriorated significantly, and the United States, as Beijing puts more pressure on Taiwan, doesn’t condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has become more assertive on the world stage. In February, the destruction of a surveillance balloon over the United States infuriated many Americans and further strained relations between the two countries.
China criticized the McCarthy-Tsai meeting as a “provocation” and a violation of the one-China principle, according to which Washington recognizes Beijing as the only legitimate Chinese government while maintaining unofficial relations with Taipei.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tsai and McCarthy, the third-highest-ranking U.S. official, visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, to promote Taiwanese independence. At a press briefing on Thursday, spokesperson Mao Ning said China would take firm steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
According to the White House, China should not use Tsai’s travel through the United States as a “pretext” for increased aggression against Taiwan.
China has not announced any large-scale military exercises like the ones it did after Nancy Pelosi, McCarthy’s predecessor, visited Taiwan in August of last year. Taiwan, however, said it was watching smaller movements closely.
In the Taiwan Strait, the Fujian provincial maritime safety administration has started a three-day joint cruise and patrol operation about 160 kilometers from Taiwan. The operation may include “on-site inspections” of other vessels. The Taiwanese government said that it had strongly protested the operation to China and told shipping companies to turn down any requests from China to board.
On Wednesday, Taipei also kept an eye on a Chinese aircraft carrier that, according to Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, was about 200 nautical miles off the island’s eastern coast. Even though the carrier group was training in the area, Chiu told reporters that the scheduling was “extremely delicate.” On Thursday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the aircraft carrier.
The U.S. delegation began its visit by meeting with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai on Thursday. Early next year, Lai is likely to receive a nomination for the presidential race from Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.
McCaul stated before the meeting that he wanted to make it abundantly clear that the United States stands with Taiwan and will defend Taiwan.
Afterward, he stated that they were protecting Taiwan by giving them weapons and training and being ready to defend them if necessary.
According to Lai, Taiwan, which routinely purchases defensive weapons from the United States, will do its utmost to defend itself. He said one must indeed prepare for a conflict to prevent one.
U.S. lawmakers will meet with Taiwanese officials from Thursday to Saturday to discuss bilateral relations, regional security, trade and investment, and “other important issues of mutual interest.” This is according to the American Institute in Taiwan, which acts as Taipei’s de facto U.S. embassy.