A U.S. Congressional delegation has kicked off a surprise one-day visit to Taiwan—the second visit from Washington to the self-ruled island this month.
Despite Beijing’s previous demand over a trip cancellation, The bipartisan delegation landed in Taipei on Nov. 25 and praised Taiwan as “a force for good in the world” while meeting its president.
Led by Mark Takano (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the group with five lawmakers also includes Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy.
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and has remained steadfast as the ties between us have deepened. Taiwan is a democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the world,” he added.
It is the second trip of U.S. congressmen to Taiwan this month and the third of this year.
A group of six Republican lawmakers visited the island on Nov. 9 and met Tsai and other senior officials, as China’s military conducted a combat readiness patrol in the direction of the Taiwan Strait. Another delegation consisting of three senators visited the island in June to donate then-badly-needed vaccines.
“It’s a continuation of what’s been going on for a very long time,” Scott Simon, a co-holder of the Chair of Taiwan Studies at the University of Ottawa, told The Epoch Times.
Yet he said China’s aggression toward Taiwan is a driving force for the international diplomatic recognition of the latter.
“In the past, many countries were afraid of offending China by having official and visible visits with ministers from Taiwan, and that’s probably one of the most sensible ones of all.”
The world now sees the need for “symbolic gestures and some visible contacts” in order to reveal to China an assertive backing of democracy and international rules, according to Simon.
The Nov. 25 visit came after the Biden administration invited Taipei to attend a U.S.-led democracy summit alongside 109 other governments next month, while Beijing is not on the guest list.
The latest visit appeared to be a previously unannounced leg of the U.S. delegation following a Thanksgiving trip to Japan and South Korea that began on Nov. 19, which has drawn fire from Beijing.
“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Slotkin, who is part of the delegation, wrote on Twitter upon her arrival in Taiwan.
The Chinese Communist Party deems the island as its lost territory and calls Taiwan-related issues “internal affairs,” although it has not ruled Taiwan since it came into power in 1949.
“It’s wrong to call it reunification because they were never unified in the first place,” said Simon.
Beijing has now stepped up military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims and tensions between the two have risen to their highest level in decades.
Tsai wants to maintain mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors but vowed to defend Taiwan if attacked. The United States serves no formal diplomatic ties with the democratic island but is its most important international backer.
“In terms of the regional situation you are paying attention to, Taiwan will continue to step up cooperation with the United States in order to uphold our shared values of freedom and democracy and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” she told the visiting delegation on Nov. 26.
China “firmly opposes” official interaction between U.S. and Taiwan authorities, the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Nov. 25.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has yet formally commented on the recent visit.
Donna Ho contributed to this report.