Visit to Taiwan aimed at learning how U.S. can support its defense: senator

11/15/2021 11:46 AM
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The U.S. congressional delegation meets with President Tsai Ing-wen (center). Photo courtesy of Senator John Cornyn
The U.S. congressional delegation meets with President Tsai Ing-wen (center). Photo courtesy of Senator John Cornyn

Taipei, Nov. 15 (CNA) A recent visit to Taiwan by a congressional delegation was aimed at learning how the United States can help support Taiwan's defense capabilities and to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade ties, according to a U.S. senator on Sunday.

U.S. Senator and India Caucus Co-Chair John Cornyn, who led the delegation, said in a news release that the delegates have returned to the United States on Sunday after concluding an Indo-Pacific trip in the past few days that took it to Taiwan, the Philippines and India, "to strengthen ties with critical allies and partners to counter Chinese aggression."

The delegation consisted of Senators Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Lee of Utah and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama as well as Representatives Tony Gonzales and Jake Ellzey of Texas, the news release noted.

The congressmen, all Republicans, began their travels to Hawaii by meeting with the newly installed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Commander, Admiral John Aquilino, who oversees the oldest and largest combatant command.

It then headed to the Philippines where the congressmen met with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and received an update on efforts to counter China's influence in the region.

While visiting Taiwan, the delegation met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) along with defense and foreign affairs leadership in Taipei, "to learn how the U.S. can best support Taiwan's development of domestic asymmetric defense capabilities and discuss trade relations."

They also visited the world's largest semiconductor foundry to tour a fabrication facility and receive a briefing about China's efforts to threaten Taiwanese chipmaking and destabilize this critical supply chain, the news release added, referring to the headquarters of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) in the Hsinchu Science Park.

After leaving Taiwan, the delegation visited India where they discussed issues important to the U.S. and India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While in India, delegation members also met with a representative of the Dalai Lama, who spoke with the group about shared values for religious freedom and human rights, and China's repression and persecution of Tibetans, according to the press release.

"The Indo-Pacific is the largest military theater in the world, and our allies there are invaluable to ensuring we can counter China's overreach," said Cornyn.

"Our delegation was able to see firsthand the issues facing countries from mainland India to island partners in the Pacific, and I am grateful to our host nations and our servicemembers stationed there," he said.

The press statement issued by Cornyn is the first time the senator made public the low-profile visit from Nov. 9 to 11. It was not previously announced what happened amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

A flight tracker app showed that a U.S. Navy C-40 Clipper military transport plane had arrived in Taiwan Tuesday night from the Philippines, and according to reports, it was carrying the American congressional delegation.

Shortly after, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed the previously undisclosed visit, but declined to provide any details on the length of the delegation's stay or itinerary in Taiwan, citing the wishes of the American lawmakers.

After Cornyn made public their visit to Taiwan on Sunday, MOFA in Taipei was finally able to confirm their three-day visit, saying they met with Tsai, National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo (顧立雄), Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) and Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng (曾厚仁).

They also talked with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) via video conference instead of in person because Wu was then undergoing a 14-day quarantine after returning from a trip to Europe, according to MOFA.

MOFA said the recently concluded trip is the first ever large-scale delegation to Taiwan consisting of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House in the U.S. and has exemplified long-term U.S. support toward Taiwan.

Cornyn is one of the initiators of several pro-Taiwan bills in the U.S. Senate, including the Taiwan Partnership Act that was submitted in July, calling for partnership between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan's military, and the Taiwan Deterrence Act put forth earlier this month to increase military aid to Taiwan and bolster its defense, amid China's growing coercion.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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