US Delegation Arrives in Taiwan Amid Rising Tensions With China

2021-04-14
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US Delegation Arrives in Taiwan Amid Rising Tensions With China Former US Senator Chris Dodd (left) and Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu wave after the arrival of a US delegation at Songshan Airport, Taipei, April 14, 2021.
Handout by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs / AFP

A U.S. delegation led by former Senator Chris Dodd arrived on the democratic island of Taiwan on Wednesday, amid rising tensions with China.

Dodd's is the first delegation to visit the country since President Joe Biden took office in January. A close personal friend of Biden, Dodd was accompanied by former deputy secretaries of state Richard Armitage and James Steinberg, and greeted by Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu.

Taiwan foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the delegation's visit would "enable it to exchange views on a variety of topics with relevant government departments here."

A senior administration official in Washington said the delegation was visiting in "a longstanding bipartisan tradition."

"The selection of these three individuals – senior statesmen who are longtime friends of Taiwan and personally close with President Biden – sends an important signal about the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and its democracy," the official said.

Analysts told RFA that the visit signals increasing concern in Washington over growing Chinese aggression towards Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), nor formed part of the People's Republic of China.

The visit comes amid increasing incursions by Chinese aircraft into Taiwan's Aircraft Defense Exclusion Zone (ADIZ), and calls from CCP general secretary Xi Jinping for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to prepare for war.

Kwei-Bo Huang, associate professor of international relations at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, said the delegation reflects concern in the Biden administration.

"Cross-straits relations are getting tenser and tenser," Huang said. "Biden has made clear his full commitment to the people of Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act."

"This sends a political message about boosting Taiwan's ability to defend itself."

'A very important image'

Wu Se-Chih, researcher at the Cross-Straits Policy Association, agreed, saying the visit carried strong political connotations.

"I think this is indeed a very important image for Biden to project when it comes to implementing the rules of exchange between Taiwan and the United States," he said.

"We can expect future interactions between Taiwan and the United States to operate on this basis," he said.

"There will be different levels of exchange, depending on whether it's about security or economic matters," he said.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office meanwhile warned that China "does not promise to abandon the use of force and retains the option of taking all necessary measures."

It called on Washington to halt its exchanges with Taiwan and pointed to recent military exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as a sign of its determination to fight "Taiwanese independence forces."

"We oppose any form of official exchange between the U.S. and Taiwan, no matter how it’s presented, no matter what excuses are used as a cover up," office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a news briefing on Wednesday.

China’s foreign affairs ministry said it had lodged complaints to Washington about the delegation, which is scheduled to meet with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday.

A State Department spokesperson called on Beijing stop saber-rattling after the PLA flew 25 military jets into Taiwan's ADIZ on Monday.

"The United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing [Chinese] attempts to intimidate the region, including Taiwan," the spokesperson said.

"We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan."

Reported by Hwang Chun-mei and Jane Tang for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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