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U.S. delegation visits Taiwan as tensions further fray with China

By Darryl Coote   |   Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:30 AM
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., shakes hands with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a trip to the Asian island. Photo courtesy of The Office of the President of Taiwan/Release Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (C) poses with for a photo with a U.S. delegation that arrived on the self-governing island Sunday for a five-day trip. Photo courtesy of The Office of the President of Taiwan/Release

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A bipartisan U.S. delegation met with President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan on Tuesday in an effort to boost cooperation between Washington and Taipei amid deepening tensions with China.

The delegation, led by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., was greeted by Tsai at the Presidential Office Building in the capital where she vowed to work closer with the United States and their democratic partners to respond to global challenges, including "authoritarian expansion."

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"On behalf of the people and the government of Taiwan, I want to extend my gratitude to all of you for taking concrete action to support Taiwan," she said in brief remarks. "I believe your visit, just as the new session of the U.S. Congress has begun, will help Taiwan and the United States explore even more opportunities for cooperation.

"Together, we can continue to safeguard the values of democracy and freedom and contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery."

The delegation arrived on the self-governing island on Sunday for a five-day trip, during which the Americans will seek to bolster ties between Silicon Valley and the Taiwanese semiconductor industry.

Khanna, a member of the newly formed select committee on strategic competition between the United States and China, highlighted during his brief remarks the commitment each member of his delegation has for Taiwan's independence, stating that they are on the island to "affirm the shared values between the United States and Taiwan, and the commitment to democracy, commitment to freedom."

Reps. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas; Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass.; and Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill., rounded out the rest of the delegation, whom Taiwan's foreign ministry described in a statement on their arrival as "important friends" who have "firmly spoken out for Taiwan on important issues."

Visits by U.S. delegations to the self-governing island have previously been met with shows of military might by China, which views Taiwan as a rouge province that is has vowed to take back by force if necessary.

The United States has committed to defending Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, which is one of the causes for strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

The trip also comes on the heels of the U.S. military downing a suspected Chinese spy balloon early this month that had traversed the United States. The White House has accused Beijing of operating a massive international spying campaign.

China has refuted the accusations, stating the aerial object was a civilian weather balloon that had blown off course.

Tensions between the two have further been strained after U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that they are "very concerned" that China may soon start arming Russia in its war against Ukraine.

"It is the U.S., not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield," China's ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday during a regular press briefing. "The U.S. is in no position to tell China what to do.

"We would never stand for finger-pointing, or even coercion and pressurizing from the U.S. on our relations with Russia."