KMT's Hou meets U.S. lawmakers, speaks at think tank in Washington
Washington, Sept. 19 (CNA) New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜), the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT) presidential candidate, met 11 American lawmakers after speaking at a Washington, D.C. think tank on Tuesday, Hou's final day in the United States capital city.
Hou met Roger Wicker, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Dan Sullivan, a member of the same committee; Jeff Merkley, member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Senator Bill Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan, among others, according to the KMT.
He also spoke briefly with several other senators during his visit to the U.S. Congress, meeting with 11 American lawmakers in all during a whirlwind 6.5-hour stop on Capitol Hill, the KMT said.
Following their closed-door meetings, Sullivan told Taiwanese reporters that his fellow Republican senators and Democratic counterparts stressed their bipartisan support for Taiwan and its people during the meeting with Hou.
He also said American lawmakers "don't get involved in politics in terms of the candidates," but noted that they do meet with candidates, including when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was running for office.
"So it's kind of a custom that we have," he said.
Merkley, meanwhile, did not disclose details of his meeting with the KMT presidential pick, saying only it was a "very good, positive" meeting.
"Our two nations have a lot of collective concerns. Certainly the foremost of those is ensuring that democracy continues to thrive in Taiwan," he added.
Earlier Tuesday, Hou visited the Heritage Foundation and shared his views of Taiwan, as a potential future leader, in an hour-long closed-door meeting that was not open to the media.
According to Hou's team, he said his eight-day visit to the U.S. was meant to raise awareness among Americans that Taiwan is an important member of the Indo-Pacific region and is willing to be an "responsible stakeholder" instead of a "troublemaker."
Hou said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should strengthen dialogue and functional exchanges to effectively lower the risk of potential conflict, Hou's office said.
The KMT presidential candidate said he was not under any illusions about Beijing's intentions, but argued that only by steering Taiwan clear of war and maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait could there be regional stability and prosperity.
Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, told reporters after the meeting that the meeting's participants had a "very substantive discussion" with the New Taipei mayor.
Though he could not share any details of their discussions, Cunningham said people in the meeting asked Hou "a lot of really tough questions."
"Mayor Hou answered them all, gave us a great view of, I guess, how he views Taiwan, his vision for Taiwan if he's elected, and also his understanding of U.S.-Taiwan relations and the challenges Taiwan faces," he said.
Tuesday was Hou's last day in Washington D.C. before heading to San Francisco to meet with overseas Taiwanese and ethnic Chinese in the city as well as representatives from tech companies there.
After an overnight stay in San Francisco, Hou will head back to Taiwan late Thursday.
The trip to the U.S. has been described by Hou's campaign office as a "journey of dialogue and deepening friendship."
It is also considered by some to be a test of his ability to handle diplomatic affairs if he were to be elected president in the January 2024 election.
It has been a longstanding practice for Taiwanese presidential candidates to visit the U.S. before elections.
Taiwan People's Party (TPP) chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and incumbent Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), the ruling Democratic Progressive Party nominee for the 2024 presidential election, both visited the U.S. earlier this year.
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