Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with a delegation of former U.S. defense officials led by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen on Wednesday in Taipei. Photo courtesy of the Office of the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
March 2 (UPI) -- Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the United States "stands firm behind its commitments" to Taiwan during a visit to the democratic island in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The retired admiral is leading a delegation of former defense officials sent by U.S. President Joe Biden on a two-day trip to Taiwan for meetings with President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials.
"Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is not just a U.S. interest, but also a global one," Mullen said in remarks to President Tsai ahead of their meeting.
"I do hope by being here with you, we can reassure you and your people, as well as our allies and partners in the region that the United States stands firm behind its commitments," he said.
Washington does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, but sells weapons to Taiwan under a 1979 law and stipulates threats to the self-governing island are "of grave concern to the United States."
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has brought a renewed focus on the danger to Taiwan posed by China, which has vowed to retake the island it views as a breakaway province.
Over the past several months, Beijing has ratcheted up military provocations with frequent flights through Taipei's air defense zone and gestures such as beach landing drills in a nearby province.
"At present, China's military threat to the Taiwan Strait and to the region continues to rise," President Tsai said Wednesday, comparing the situation Taiwan potentially faces to that of Ukraine.
"The Ukrainian people's commitment to protecting their freedom and democracy and their fearless dedication to defending their country have been met with deep empathy from the people of Taiwan," Tsai said. "We too stand on the front line of the battle for democracy."
"Now is the time for all democracies around the world to come together," she said.
Taipei has joined international sanctions against Russia and on Tuesday announced that it had sent 27 tons of medical aid to Ukraine.
Beijing denounced the visit and warned Washington against interfering in cross-Strait issues.
"The attempt by the U.S. to show support to Taiwan will be in vain, no matter who the U.S. sends," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday at a press briefing.
Wang said that the United States should "stop all forms of official interactions with Taiwan, and handle Taiwan-related issues in a prudent manner, lest it should further undermine the larger interests of China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
Mullen's five-person delegation includes Meghan O'Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, and Michele Flournoy, a former Under Secretary of Defense in President Barack Obama's administration.
In an unrelated visit, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to arrive Wednesday on a four-day trip that will also include meetings with Tsai and other officials.