TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A delegation of United States lawmakers met with Taiwan’s president on Tuesday as part of an ongoing visit to the island that comes at a tense moment between the U.S. and China, who have spent weeks trading accusations over a suspected spy balloon.
The group was one of many U.S. delegations President Tsai Ing-wen has welcomed in recent years, despite China’s objections.
China claims the island republic as its own territory, to be taken by force if necessary. Beijing has responded to foreign visits by holding large-scale military exercises seen by some as a rehearsal for a blockade or invasion.
Tsai thanked the lawmakers for coming, saying it was a chance to deepen ongoing cooperation in semiconductor chip design and manufacturing, renewable energy and 5G.
“Taiwan and the U.S. (will) continue to bolster military exchanges. Going forward, Taiwan will cooperate even more actively with the U.S. and other democratic partners to confront such bold challenges as authoritarian expansionism and climate change,” Tsai said.
Tensions between the U.S. and China inflated after Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that Beijing maintains was an unmanned weather balloon. Both sides are also in opposition on the war in Ukraine, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Sunday that Beijing could be considering providing weapons to Russia for the war.
“We are here to affirm the shared values between the U.S. and Taiwan — a commitment to democracy, a commitment to freedom,” California Rep. Ro Khanna said. “The U.S. under President Biden’s leadership seeks peace in the region.”
He is accompanied by Reps. Tony Gonzales of Texas, Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Jonathan Jackson of Illinois. The group met with their legislative counterparts Monday, as well as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company founder Morris Chang.
Khanna also offered a tribute to former President Jimmy Carter, who recently entered hospice care. He was president when Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. must ensure Taiwan can defend itself.