U.S. lawmakers defy China by meeting with officials in Taiwan

Jonathan Allen
Taiwan's flag seen outside The Grand Hotel, which serves many mainland Chinese tourists, in Taipei city.
Felix Wong | South China Morning Post | Getty Images

Five U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to meet with government officials, defying an admonition from Beijing to stay away from the hotly contested democratic island.

"When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip," Rep Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., wrote on Twitter. "The auto industry's largest supplier of microchips is here in Taiwan, so supply chain issues will most definitely be on the agenda."

Slotkin's office later shared with NBC News excerpts of a letter it said it received from the embassy on Wednesday.

"We strongly urge the Congresswoman immediately cancel the planned visit to Taiwan, and not to support and embolden separatist forces of 'Taiwan independence,' lest it cause huge damage to the China-US relations and the peace and stability of Taiwan Straits," the embassy wrote.

The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bipartisan delegation that arrived Thursday, led by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., included fellow panel members Slotkin and Reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., as well as Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., according to Reuters, which first reported the trip.

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American support for Taiwan's military and the elevation of unofficial relations with Taiwan in recent years has strained U.S.-China relations. China lays claim to Taiwan and does not have official ties with countries that recognize the autonomous island as an independent nation. As a result, the U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwan, nor does it maintain an embassy there.

Still, the U.S. has upgraded its relationship with Taiwan over the last several years, including through a consular agreement, continued support for Taiwan's security and visits from U.S. officials. An earlier trip by members of Congress led to the Chinese responding with military exercises near Taiwan.

The U.S. posture toward China's relationship with Taiwan is one of "strategic ambiguity," which is designed to leave open the question of how Washington would respond to either a Chinese attack on Taiwan or a siege. President Joe Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting in October that the U.S. would defend Taiwan against an attack, but the White House quickly clarified that there was no change in U.S. policy.

Takano praised the island as a "force for good" in the world during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, and said under Tsai ties with the United States were more productive than in decades.

"Our commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and has remained steadfast as the ties between us have deepened. Taiwan is a democratic success story, a reliable partner and a force for good in the world," he said.