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Duckworth makes surprise trip to Taiwan amid rising U.S.-China tensions

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (C) on Monday made a surprise trip to Taiwan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan/<a href="https://twitter.com/MOFA_Taiwan/status/1531253107984072704?s=20&amp;t=BQ-4BYxL9_TsVBoXYcriag">Twitter</a>
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (C) on Monday made a surprise trip to Taiwan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan/Twitter

May 31 (UPI) -- Sen. Tammy Duckworth and a U.S. delegation arrived in Taiwan for an unannounced visit amid growing tensions centered around the island between the United States and China.

The surprise trip was announced by Taiwan's foreign ministry, which said on Twitter that Duckworth will be on the island for a three-day visit that is "aimed at deepening understanding on various issues at the heart of" Taiwan-U.S. relations.

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"We thank our good friend for the rock-solid support," the ministry said.

The foreign ministry in a statement said deputy foreign minister Harry Tseng met the Illinois Democrat and her party at the airport Monday evening.

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The visit will include meetings with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier Su Tseng-chang and economic affairs minister Wang Mei-hua, the ministry said, adding the delegation will also be received for a banquet before departing Wednesday.

Tsai said she was "delighted" to welcome Duckworth back to the island.

"I look forward to meeting with you again & discussing our bilateral efforts to promote security & prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," she tweeted.

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Duckworth has been a champion of U.S. support for Taiwan and visited Taipei for the first time last June to announce a donation of 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses amid a shortage on the island.

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The move attracted warnings from Beijing against the United States interfering with its policy toward Taiwan, a self-governing island that China views as a rogue province it has vowed to reclaim.

Days before the unannounced trip, Duckworth introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen Taiwan's security against the threat of a Chinese invasion.

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The Strengthen Taiwan's Security Act aims to deliver weapons systems and other lethal aid to Taipei as well as improve its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Duckworth unveiled the act amid rising tensions between China and the United States after U.S. President Joe Biden met with allies in Asia last week in an effort to counter Beijing's growing competition in the region.

During the trip, Biden angered China by saying that the Untied States would intervene if Beijing attempted to take Taiwan.

Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin rebuked the comment during a press conference May 23, stating there is "but one China in the world" and that "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory."

"No one should underestimate the strong resolve, determination and capability of the Chinese people in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he threatened. "No one should stand in opposition to the 1.4 billion Chinese people."

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Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said Monday that 30 Chinese warplanes had entered its Air Defense Identification Zone, continuing weeks of military provocations against the island.

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