A delegation of U.S. lawmakers met with the head of Taiwan’s legislature on Monday as part of a five-day visit to the self-ruled island that comes as U.S.-China relations remain tense after weeks of trading accusations over a spy balloon.
The delegation that arrived Sunday includes Reps. Ro Khanna of California, Tony Gonzales of Texas, Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Jonathan Jackson of Illinois.
They are expected to meet President Tsai Ing-wen as well as business people. On Monday, they held talks with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s founder Morris Chang, considered the father of the island’s chip industry.
Khanna, a Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, said he was in Taiwan to learn about the island’s role in the semiconductor industry. Khanna and Auchincloss are both members of the new House select committee focused on competition with China.
He addressed the implicit threat facing their visit, as China opposes any form of exchange between Taiwan and foreign governments. China claims the island as part of its territory to be united by force if necessary, and has stepped up military and diplomatic harassment of Taiwan.
“Our efforts to come here are in no way provocative of China, but consistent with the president’s foreign policy that recognizes the importance of the relationship like Taiwan, while still seeking ultimately, peace in the region,” Khanna said.
Head of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, You Si-kun, used the speech to hit back at Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, who said over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference that Taiwan “has never been a country and it will not be a country in the future.”
“China ignores historical fact and claims to have sovereignty over Taiwan. Taiwan has already become an independent sovereign nation … Taiwan has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China for a single day,” You said.
The delegation’s visit follows a sensitive trip made by a senior Pentagon official on Friday, reported by the Financial Times.
A Pentagon spokesperson did not comment on the visit by Michael Chase, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, repeating that “our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no information about any such visit.
Tensions between the U.S. and China again ratcheted up last month after Washington accused Beijing of sending a spy balloon that was shot down over the American East Coast, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing. Blinken also said over the weekend that the United States was concerned that China would provide weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Associated Press video producer Johnson Lai contributed to this report.