Lawmakers vow support, weapons for Taiwan as tensions with China intensify

A congressional delegation, which traveled to Taiwan Monday to meet with newly elected Taiwan President William Lai Ching-te, vowed support for the island nation against increasing tension with China.

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), the co-chair of the Taiwan caucus, said the U.S. is committing to supporting Taiwan’s military both diplomatically and economically, The Associated Press reported.

“There should be no doubt, there should be no skepticism in the United States, Taiwan or anywhere in the world, of American resolve to maintain the status quo and peace in the Taiwan Strait,” Barr said at a new conference in Taipei after meeting with Lai.

Days ago, China launched new military exercises around Taiwan, just after the self-governing island swore in Lai. China criticized the new leader of escalating tensions in his inaugural address and the military drills, which include ships and aircraft, followed.

Lai called the U.S. delegation’s visit an “important gesture of solidarity” at a critical time, the AP reported.

Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.) were joined by Rep. Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the trip.

Their visit follows the approval of a military aid bill, which sends U.S. funds to countries in need, including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Ministry Mao Ning said in a press conference Monday that the lawmakers’ visit sends a signal to China, who “firmly opposes” the trip and made “serious protests to the U.S.”

“China firmly opposes military contract between the US and Taiwan and any attempt to arm Taiwan,” Mao said. “We urge relevant members of the US Congress to stop playing the ‘Taiwan card,’ stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, stop supporting and conniving at ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, and stop undermining China-US relations and cross-Strait peace and stability.”

Lai won the election in January after campaigning on closer relations with Washington, despite the U.S. not formally recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign nation due to its one China policy.

In January, China warned that it would not make “any concession or compromise” on the self-governing nation.

The Biden administration said Saturday that U.S. officials are “deeply concerned” about the drills and warned China to “act with restraint.” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the military exercises were jeopardizing peace and stability in the region.

Earlier this year, U.S. Adm. John Aquilino, the head of the Indo-Pacific Command, said “all indications” point to China’s military being ready to invade Taiwan by 2027. He argued that China will try to unify with Taiwan through other means by force but has not ruled out military force if other efforts fail.

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