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US lawmakers travel to Taiwan less than two weeks after Nancy Pelosi visit

A delegation of US lawmakers has travelled to Taiwan less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in a move that inflamed tensions with China.

Democratic senator Ed Markey led the group which arrived on Sunday. A representative for Markey, a member of the foreign relations committee in the upper chamber of Congress, confirmed that the lawmakers sought to “reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan” and to “encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait”.

“The group will meet with elected leaders and members of the private sector to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic co-operation, including investments in semiconductors,” the official said.

The visit comes as China continues a military intimidation campaign towards Taiwan which it kicked off following Pelosi’s visit. Beijing said on August 10 that military exercises around Taiwan, launched to “punish” the country for hosting Pelosi, had been completed. However, the People’s Liberation Army is still sending fighter jets and warships close to Taiwan in what Taipei and Washington have denounced as an attempt to change the status quo in the flashpoint.

According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, 22 PLA aircraft and 6 PLA warships operated in the Taiwan Strait area on Sunday. It said 11 of the aircraft were active on Taiwan’s side of the Strait median line, an unofficial buffer which Beijing says it “obliterated” during the latest crisis.

Taiwan’s government welcomed the US lawmakers’ visit and said the delegation would meet President Tsai Ing-wen, foreign minister Joseph Wu and members of the foreign affairs and defence committee of the Taiwanese legislature. Democratic House lawmakers Don Beyer, John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal travelled with Markey, as did Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the Republican delegate to the House from American Samoa.

“That the US Congress is again organising a heavyweight delegation to visit Taiwan as China continues to escalate regional tensions demonstrates friendship without fear of China’s threats and intimidation, and highlights the US’s strong support for Taiwan,” the Taiwan foreign ministry said.

Until recently, lawmakers and cabinet members from the US and other democratic countries frequently visited Taiwan without any fallout from China. But Beijing has indicated that it intends to step up countermeasures.

On Friday, China slapped sanctions on Lithuania’s deputy transport minister for visiting Taiwan earlier in the week.

Kurt Campbell, the White House National Security Council’s co-ordinator for the Indo-Pacific, on Friday told reporters the US expected China’s “intensified pressure campaign” against Taiwan “to continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months” with an intent “to intimidate and coerce Taiwan and undermine its resilience”.

Campbell confirmed that US president Joe Biden had discussed a possible bilateral meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping during a recent call between the two leaders, and asked their teams to sort out the specifics, but there was nothing new on timing or locations.


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