US senators defy China threats with Taiwan visit

Published April 15, 2022
Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other members of the US delegation pose for a family photo with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu as they arrive at Taipei Songshan airport in Taipei, Taiwan. — Reuters
Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other members of the US delegation pose for a family photo with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu as they arrive at Taipei Songshan airport in Taipei, Taiwan. — Reuters

TAIPEI: A delegation of United States lawmakers led by vocal China hawk Senator Lindsey Graham arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for a two-day trip as Beijing threatened “strong measures” in response.

The group, which also includes Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez, is making the latest in a string of visits by foreign politicians to the island in defiance of pressure from Beijing.

A US government plane touched down in Taipei on Thursday evening for what Washington’s de facto embassy said were talks on “US-Taiwan relations, regional security, and other significant issues of mutual interest”.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the group would meet President Tsai Ing-wen, foreign minister Joseph Wu and defence officials.

China’s Communist Party has never controlled self-ruled Taiwan but it views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary. Those threats have become more bellicose under President Xi Jinping, making the security of Taiwan a rare subject of bipartisan support in Washington.

Menendez was among a group of lawmakers who introduced a bill in February to rename Taipei’s de facto embassy in Washington the “Taiwan Representative Office”.

That would be a diplomatic departure from the tradition of using the word “Taipei”.

Beijing baulks at use of the word Taiwan on the international stage and opposes any country having official exchanges with the democratic island.

Lithuania’s recent decision to allow Taiwan to use its own name for a representative office triggered Beijing to launch a trade war against Vilnius that has angered the European Union.

China’s foreign ministry warned the US senators against “going down on the wrong and dangerous path” ahead of their arrival.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2022

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