A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers paid a surprise visit to Taiwan on Thursday night to reaffirm U.S. support for the island, drawing the ire of the Chinese Communist Party.
The delegation includes Senators Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), Rob Portman (R., Ohio), and Representative Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a former advisor to President Donald Trump.
The lawmakers were met by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu at the Taipei airport, a break from normal protocol.
The visit comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cancelled a planned trip to the island after contracting Covid. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had previously called Pelosi’s planned visit a “red line” for U.S.-China relations.
The delegation traveled on a U.S. Air Force jet, indicating that the Biden Administration had sanctioned the trip. They had previously been visiting Australia – which last year signed the ‘AUKUS’ deal with the U.S. and U.K. to produce nuclear attack submarines – to discuss a greater U.S. troop presence in the country to defend against possible Chinese aggression.
In a joint interview with Sky News Australia, Senators Menendez and Graham stated that China was a “bad neighbor” in the Indo-Pacific, who should not “mess with Australia.” The senators said they were willing to support an “increased military presence” in the region to deter Chinese aggression. They also revealed that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would travel to the Solomon Islands shortly, following the announcement of a security deal between the strategically located island nation and China.
China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the visit in a series of tweets and press statements. Its spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said that the U.S. was being “condescending” and “irresponsible” with its visit. Lijian stated that the U.S. was “going down the wrong and dangerous path” by not adhering to the One China Principle, which holds that only one sovereign state representing China may exist, presently the People’s Republic of China.
The U.S. has not announced any changes to the policy, first adopted in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.
In Taiwan, the delegation is expected to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, before departing on Friday evening. France24 reported that a Swedish parliamentary delegation is also in Taiwan as a “signal of support” from Europe.