US senator arrives in Taiwan, angrily challenging Beijing

TAIPEI, Aug 25 (Reuters) – A U.S. member of the Senate Commerce and Armed Services Committees arrived in Taiwan on Thursday in the third visit by a U.S. dignitary this month, defying pressure from Beijing to halt travel.

Senator Marsha Blackburn arrived in Taiwan’s capital Taipei on a US military plane, live television footage from downtown Songshan Airport showed. She was greeted on the airport tarmac by Douglas Hsu, director general of Taiwan’s foreign ministry, the Blackburn office said.

“Taiwan is our strongest partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Regular high-level visits to Taipei have been a longstanding U.S. policy,” Blackburn said in a statement. “I will not be intimidated by Communist China into turning its back on the island.”

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China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory despite strong objections from the democratically elected government in Taipei, launched military exercises near the island after a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Blackburn was due to meet President Tsai Ing-wen on her trip, which ends on Saturday, as well as senior security official Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

“The two sides will hold an in-depth exchange of views on issues such as Taiwan-US security and economic and trade relations,” the ministry added in a brief statement.

Taiwan’s presidential office said Tsai will meet with Blackburn on Friday morning.

Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, Liu Pengyu, pledged that Beijing would take unspecified “resolute countermeasures” in response to what he called the US “provocations”.

“The visit in question proves once again that the United States does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Strait and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in internal affairs. of China,” Liu said in a statement.

Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, had previously expressed support for the trip by Pelosi, a member of US President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.

Pelosi’s visit infuriated China, which responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, and cutting some lines of dialogue with Washington.

Pelosi was followed about a week later by a group of five other US lawmakers, as the Chinese military responded by conducting further drills near Taiwan. Read more

The Biden administration has sought to prevent tensions between Washington and Beijing, inflamed by the visits, from escalating into conflict, reiterating that such trips to Congress are routine. Read more

“Members of Congress and elected officials have visited Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, and this is consistent with our longstanding one-China policy,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. from the White House in response to a question about Blackburn’s visit.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is required by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and therefore has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Michael Martina and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller, Alistair Bell and Sandra Maler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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