Taiwan is bolstering military exchanges with US, President Tsai says

President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan will cooperate with other friendly nations to deal with “authoritarian expansionism”. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI – Taiwan is bolstering its military ties with the United States and will cooperate even more closely with it and other friendly nations to deal with “authoritarian expansionism”, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting US lawmakers on Tuesday.

The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but it is the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier, which is a consistent source of friction in Sino-US relations.

While the US no longer maintains military bases in Taiwan, the two have a good military relationship that has become closer.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying that only the island’s 23 million people can decide their future.

“Taiwan and the United States continue to bolster military exchanges, and going forward, Taiwan will cooperate even more actively with the United States and other democratic partners to confront such global challenges as authoritarian expansionism and climate change,” Ms Tsai told the lawmakers at her office in Taipei. She gave no details.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday accused Taiwanese leaders of “provocation”, warning that “any futile separatist conspiracy or scheme relying on foreign forces to undermine cross-strait relations will only backfire and never succeed”. 

The Taiwan authorities “cannot change the inevitable broader trend towards Chinese unification”, Mr Wang said at a regular press conference.

Illustrating those close military ties with the US, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for China Michael Chase arrived in Taiwan last week for a visit, two sources familiar with the matter said earlier. It was not clear if he was still in Taiwan.

Mr Ro Khanna, a member of the US House China Select Committee who is leading the US bipartisan delegation, told Ms Tsai the group was there to strengthen both security and economic ties.

“We come here to strengthen the economic relationship. Representing Silicon Valley, I particularly appreciated the meeting with Dr Morris Chang,” he said, referring to the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world’s largest contract chipmaker.

Mr Khanna added that the delegation was interested in “how we can continue to build the economic partnership on technology and also of course the partnership on military and defence”.

In August 2022, China staged military exercises near Taiwan to express anger at then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. REUTERS, AFP

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