World

Visit of US Congress members to Taiwan set to draw Chinese scrutiny

The US does not formally recognise Taiwan as a country but maintains robust informal relations with the island.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (right) meets representatives Mike Gallagher (centre) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (left)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (right) meets representatives Mike Gallagher (centre) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (left) Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (right) meets representatives Mike Gallagher (centre) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (left) (AP)

A group of US Congress members has travelled to Taiwan to hold talks with President Tsai Ing-wen in a show of support that is certain to draw scrutiny from China, which opposes such visits and sees them as a challenge to its claim of sovereignty over the island.

A visit by then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan two years ago resulted in China dispatching warships and military aircraft to all sides of the self-governing island democracy and firing ballistic missiles into the waters nearby.

In a meeting on Thursday with Ms Tsai, Representative Mike Gallagher, Republican chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, highlighted the bipartisan support for the US-Taiwan partnership, which he described as “stronger and more rock-solid than ever now”.

The US, like most countries, does not formally recognise Taiwan as a country but maintains robust informal relations with the island and is bound by its own laws to provide it with the weapons it needs to defend itself.

Mr Gallagher thanked Ms Tsai, who is nearing the end of her second and last term in office, for her leadership in Taiwan and for distinguishing herself “as a leader within the free world”.

Representative Mike Gallagher speaks during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen
Representative Mike Gallagher speaks during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen Representative Mike Gallagher speaks during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (AP)

Ms Tsai thanked the US for continuing to help Taiwan strengthen its self-defence capabilities.

She said: “Together we are safeguarding freedom and democracy, and maintaining regional peace.”

The delegation, led by Mr Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, was expected to be in Taiwan for three days as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.

Other members include representatives John Moolenaar, Dusty Johnson and Seth Moulton.

Consisting of some of Congress’ staunchest critics of China, the bipartisan delegation was to meet with other senior Taiwanese leaders and members of civil society to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security and trade, among other issues of mutual interest.

Mr Krishnamoorthi said Taiwan is one of the United States’ “closest friends” and a role model for democracy after Lai Ching-te emerged victorious as Taiwan’s president-elect and vowed to safeguard the island’s de facto independence from China and further align it with other democracies.

“It’s one of the most robust, most vibrant, one of the most exciting democracies in the world,” Mr Krishnamoorthi said.

“This year, when half of the world’s population will be going to the polls to vote, you provided a role model for how elections should be conducted, and for that we salute you on this peaceful transfer of power, and you are an exemplar of democracy.”