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Saturday, September 24, 2022

US Congress members meet Taiwan leader amid China anger

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met Monday with a new delegation of U.S. Congress members, including two from California, in a further sign of support among American lawmakers for the self-governing island that China claims as its own territory.

Taiwanese media showed the delegation arriving for the talks, but details of the meeting were not immediately released.

It came less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which prompted days of threatening military exercises by China, including the firing of missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait.

China has also sent warplanes and naval ships across the waterway’s median, which has long been a buffer between Taiwan and the mainland, which separated politically in 1949 after civil war. China regards formal contacts between U.S. politicians and the island’s government as support for its independence from Beijing.

China says it wants to use peaceful means to bring Taiwan under its control, but its recent saber-rattling has emphasized its threat to reunify by force if necessary.

The five-member U.S. delegation is led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and includes Reps. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). The group is expected to meet with other Taiwanese government and private sector representatives. Reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in Taiwan’s crucial semiconductor industry are expected to be key topics of discussion.

A senior White House official on Asia policy said last week that China had used Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to launch an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, jeopardizing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.

“China has overreacted, and its actions continue to be provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented,” Kurt Campbell, a deputy assistant to President Biden, said on a call with reporters.

“It has sought to disregard the center line between [China] and Taiwan, which has been respected by both sides for more than 60 years as a stabilizing feature,” he said.

China accuses the U.S. of encouraging independence forces in Taiwan through its sale of military equipment to the island and engagement with its officials. The U.S. says it does not support independence for Taiwan but that the island’s differences with China should be resolved by peaceful means.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long said that it favors Taiwan joining China peacefully but that it will not rule out force if necessary. The two split in 1949 after a civil war in which the Communists took control of China and the losing Nationalists retreated to the island.

Campbell, speaking Friday, said the U.S. would send warships and planes through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks and is developing a road map for trade talks with Taiwan that he said the U.S. intends to announce in the coming days.

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