Taiwan president Tsai says US visits reinforce island's determination to defend itself

US Senator Marsha Blackburn (left) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office in Taipei on Aug 26, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (REUTERS, AFP, XINHUA) - The recent visits by guests from the United States have reinforced Taiwan's determination to defend itself, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday (Aug 26) as she met the latest US lawmaker to visit the island in defiance of Beijing.

China, which claims Taiwan as its a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary, has launched military drills near the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited in early August.

Around a week later, she was followed by five other law makers and late on Thursday Senator Marsha Blackburn touched down in Taipei.

“I just landed in Taiwan to send a message to Beijing – we will not be bullied,” she posted a message on Twitter, in Chinese. “The United States remains steadfast in preserving freedom around the globe, and will not tolerate efforts to undermine our nation and our allies.”

During the meeting at the presidential office on Friday, Ms Tsai praised the visits.

"In recent times, many public figures from a broad spectrum of US society have visited Taiwan. These warm acts of kindness and firm demonstrations of support have reinforced Taiwan's determination to defend itself," she said, in remarks carried live on Ms Tsai's social media pages.

The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide it with the means to defend itself.

Ms Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who sits on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, told Ms Tsai that the US and Taiwan had the shared values of freedom and democracy.

"It is important indeed that freedom-loving nations support Taiwan as they seek to preserve their independence and their freedom," she said.

“Anyone who has any sense of history knows that Xi Jinping will not stop threatening the safety and security of Taiwan simply because it would be in everyone’s best interest to do so,” Ms Blackburn said, referring to China’s president.

Ms Tsai said fellow democracies must work together to ensure more secure and resilient supply chains, and that she was delighted to see Taiwanese semiconductor companies investing in the US.

"We also look forward to working with the United States to strengthen cooperation on semiconductors and other high-tech sectors and jointly respond to the economic challenges of the post-pandemic era."

Taiwan is a major producer of chips, tight supplies of which have hit supply chains globally.

Ms Tsai said Taiwan would like to be further integrated into the Biden administration's new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, from which the island has so far been excluded, and other regional economic cooperation architecture.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday that Ms Blackburn's visit to 
China’s Taiwan region seriously violates the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiques, and goes against the US commitment of maintaining only non-official ties with the Taiwan region.

“We will not waver in opposing ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities and external interference. We urge the relevant US politician to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques, immediately stop all forms of official interactions with Taiwan, and immediately stop sending wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” the spokesman said, in response to a media query.

China will continue to take strong measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the spokesman added.

US legislators are not the only ones to visit Taiwan.

Ms Tsai also hosted two Japanese parliamentarians this week, and British and Canadian members of parliament are expected later this year.  

“It shows Taiwan is not alone dealing with the big bully across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters at a separate event, referring to China.

He said China’s huge military drills around Taiwan have only made allies more determined to visit the island and show solidarity.

“We will not stop making friends just because of the Chinese threats against Taiwan,” Mr Wu said.

Wu said China’s show of force had been counter-productive and “there will be more” visits to Taiwan by international dignitaries.

“Because of the military pressure that China has demonstrated against Taiwan, there are more people than ever who want to come and show their support,” Wu said.

“A lot of international friends have already told us that they are very interested to come to Taiwan and the purpose is very simple – just to show solidarity.”

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