The United States said American lawmakers’ visits to Taiwan are in line with Washington’s long-standing and bipartisan policy, urging China not to overreact to the “peaceful visits” by members of the Congress or to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
Monday, China’s military said it carried out more exercises near Taiwan’s Penghu islands as a group of U.S. congressional members met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and parliamentary members from the Legislative Yuan.
The latest U.S. congressional delegation to visit the self-ruled democracy was led by Senator Edward Markey who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee. It came just days after a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that infuriated China.
Senior U.S. officials have said China overreacted to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Washington said Beijing used it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
Speaking on the latest congressional delegation, the State Department said, “Members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades, and they will continue to do so.”
“It’s been clear for some time that there is one side, there’s one party that seeks to change the status quo,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday during a briefing. “It is not the United States. It is not Taiwan. It is the PRC (People’s Republic of China) that is challenging the status quo, that is seeking to erode the status quo.”
In a statement, Markey and four other congressional members in the U.S. delegation said they have an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwanese counterparts on issues including “support for peace and stability in Taiwan” as the island faces “growing authoritarian pressure from Beijing.”
Markey said the visit is consistent with the U.S. commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. “must continue to help Taiwan withstand cross-Strait coercion” and “must continue to work together to avoid conflict and miscalculation in the Taiwan Strait.”
But China said the latest visit by a U.S. congressional delegation ”infringes on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
A government representative in Beijing repeated that China would take resolute and strong measures in response to U.S. congressional visits to Taiwan.
At the United Nations, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun also weighed in on Beijing’s position.
“They [members of the U.S. Congress visiting Taiwan] should stop going further down the wrong direction,” Zhang said Monday.
“The whole world is seeing clearly who is provoking, who is changing the status quo, and who is trying to create troubles in that part of the world. And for China, we will definitely do whatever we can to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhang said.
For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1979 rested upon the expectation that “the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means,” as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan but asserts sovereignty over the self-ruled democracy. The CCP has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Earlier Monday, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command declared it had organized multiservice joint combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.
The exercises were “a stern deterrent to the United States and Taiwan continuing to play political tricks and undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
Former deputy secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, Philip Yang, told VOA Mandarin that one of the three goals of the delegation led by Markey was to show that China’s blockade attempt against Taiwan may not be productive.
“The first one is to express the continuity of political exchanges and interactions between the United States and Taiwan through this visit. The second is to break the impression that Taiwan is in an effective blockade after China’s military exercise after Pelosi’s visit. Thirdly, this is a political test for future arms sales to Taiwan and warships’ passage through the Taiwan Strait,” Yang told VOA Mandarin.
VOA’s United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer and VOA’s Mandarin service contributed to this report.