US lawmakers vow to bolster Taiwan’s defense with bipartisan visit days after China’s ‘punishment’ military drills

US lawmakers vowed to bolster Taiwan’s deterrence against China on Monday during a bipartisan congressional visit to the self-governing democracy just days after Beijing surrounded the island with massive military exercises.

Last week’s drills were the largest China has launched in more than a year and came days after Taiwan swore in its new presidentLai Ching-te, who is openly loathed by Beijing for championing the island’s sovereignty and distinct identity.

In a news conference in Taipei, US Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the drills an “intimidation tactic to punish democracy” and vowed to bolster Taiwan’s defense by speeding up the delivery of defensive weapons from the US.

Citing recent foreign military financing for Taiwan approved by the US House, McCaul pledged to get Taiwan the weapons it purchased from the US “as soon as possible.”

“We are moving forward on those weapons systems. I’d like to see them faster, but they are forthcoming,” he said.

The US maintains close but informal relations with Taiwan and is bound by law to supply the island with weapons to defend itself. However, Taiwan has repeatedly raised concerns about delays in US weapon deliveries, particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“President Lai and I have always had a very sobering and yet very direct conversation about the threat that this island faces from its neighbor to the north,” McCaul said, referring to China.

China’s ruling Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and has vowed to take the island by force if necessary.

China’s military kicked off two days of exercises last Thursday, sending warships and fighter jets around Taiwan and its outlying islands in what it called “a strong punishment for separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces.” It said the drills were designed to test its ability to “seize power” over the island.

Beijing has long denounced Lai as a “dangerous separatist” and decried his inauguration speech, during which he called on China to cease its intimidation of Taiwan.

The vast majority of Taiwanese have no desire to live under Chinese rule. But under Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader in a generation, Beijing has grown more assertive and ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on its democratic neighbor.

In the often bitterly polarized atmosphere of Capitol Hill support for Taiwan has become one of the few bipartisan points of agreement.

“Without deterrence, Chairman Xi has bold and aggressive ambitions, and we just need to do everything we can to make it possible for him to see that the risk outweighs the reward, that the risk is too high. I do think the deterrence we will provide, and we’re providing by our presence here today, will help prevent that,” McCaul, a Republican, said.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it “firmly opposed” the visit and had lodged stern representations with the US.

It urged the American lawmakers to “stop playing the Taiwan card, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, stop supporting and condoning Taiwan independence separatist forces, and stop undermining Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news conference Monday.

US Representative Michael McCaul, Republican-Texas, has vowed to bolster Taiwan's deterrence against China.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Lin Chia-lung called the visit by US lawmakers “a powerful display of the strong bipartisan support of Taiwan in the United States.”

“It’s also an important gesture of solidarity that shows America stands firmly with democratic Taiwan, and for this, we are deeply grateful,” Lin said at the news conference alongside McCaul, vowing to advance the “rock-solid partnership” between the two sides.

China’s military drills, he said, were “to express their displeasure with President Lai, a president democratically elected by the people of Taiwan.”

But he added they had another objective.

“I believe the military exercises were also the PRC way of welcoming this delegation,” he said, referring to China’s official name the People’s Republic of China.

The delegation also met with Lai, Taiwan’s new leader, on Monday morning.

Calling McCaul “Taiwan’s longtime friend,” Lai thanked the delegation for their firm support for Taiwan and vowed to deepen cooperation with the US and other like-minded countries to maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity.

“I deeply admire former US President Ronald Reagan’s concept of ‘peace through strength.’ Therefore, moving forward, I’ll enhance reform and bolster national defense, showing the world the Taiwanese people’s determination to defend their homeland,” Lai said.

“With your support, I hope that the US Congress through legislative action will continue to assist Taiwan in strengthening its self-defense capabilities, thereby advancing bilateral exchanges and cooperation.”

In response, McCaul congratulated Lai for assuming the presidency, saying “Taiwan has the right man at the right time in the right place.”

“We must make sure no one in the right mind will try to upset the peace that let you thrive,” McCaul told Lai. “American is and will always be a reliable partner, and no amount of coercion or intimidation will slow down or stop the routine visits by the congress to Taiwan.”

McCaul last visited Taiwan in April 2023 and met former President Tsai Ing-wen. China responded with a show of military force and later imposed sanctions on McCaul.

In August 2022, China staged massive war games around Taiwan to show its displeasure with then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. Beijing fired missiles into waters surrounding the island and simulated a blockade with fighter jets and warships, in its largest show of force in years.

Source link

Related Posts