Taiwan's Lai receives first US official delegation since inauguration

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te (R) meets with US Rep. Michael McCaul and US Congressional delegation at the Presidential Office. The visit was the first by American politicians since Lai took office last week. Liu Shu Fu/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
Taiwan President Lai Ching-te (R) meets with US Rep. Michael McCaul and US Congressional delegation at the Presidential Office. The visit was the first by American politicians since Lai took office last week. Liu Shu Fu/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te on Monday received the first US official delegation since his inauguration last week, saying that the visit showed Washington's firm support for Taiwan's new government as well as the people of Taiwan.

Lai said that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, a cornerstone in the development of Taiwan US relations.

"We will continue to deepen cooperation with the United States and other like-minded countries to jointly maintain regional peace, stability and prosperous development,” Lai told visiting US lawmakers.

The bipartisan group, led by Republican Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, arrived in Taipei on Sunday, shortly after China conducted two days of military drills last week, which included a simulated blockade of the island in a display of displeasure at Lai’s inauguration on May 20.

During the meeting with Lai, McCaul first said “We love Taiwan" in Mandarin. McCaul said China conducted intimidating military exercises last week sending 111 aircraft and 46 warships, demonstrating that "they are not interested in taking Taiwan by peaceful means."

Stressing that all democracies must stand together against aggression and tyranny, McCaul said that "an unholy alliance is eroding peace around the world," citing Russia, Iran, and China.

"Americans and Taiwanese working side by side can supercharge emerging technologies like AI and quantum computing to enhance our prosperity," McCaul said.

The US delegation’s Taiwan visit, which is due to end on Thursday, is part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.

The United States maintains a certain amount of strategic ambiguity when it comes to Taiwan, officially recognizing only the Beijing government, but it is required to support Taiwan's defence capabilities through the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Andy Barr, who co-chairs the Taiwan caucus in Congress, at a news conference stressed the US resolve to maintain the status quo and peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“The United States is fully and completely committed to deterrence, supporting Taiwan militarily, diplomatically and economically," Barr said.

McCaul told reporters that China had sent him a warning not to visit Taiwan. China opposes any form of official visit to Taiwan, which it views as its territory despite that fact that the island has had an independent government since 1949.

In Beijing, on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning protested the US congressional visit to Taiwan. Mao said that the US move also violated the political commitment made by the US government to "maintain unofficial relations only with Taiwan" and sent a seriously wrong signal to the Taiwan independence separatist forces.

"China firmly opposes US-Taiwan military ties and arming Taiwan, and urges relevant US lawmakers to stop playing the Taiwan card, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, stop supporting and condoning Taiwan independence separatist forces, and stop undermining China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," Mao said.

The delegation in the following days plans to meet senior Taiwan leaders and members of civil society to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, and other significant issues of mutual interest, according to according to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto US embassy to Taipei.

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te (R) tries on a cowboy hat gifted him by US Rep. Michael McCaul during a meeting at the Presidential Office. The visit was the first by American politicians since Lai took office last week. Liu Shu Fu/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
Taiwan President Lai Ching-te (R) tries on a cowboy hat gifted him by US Rep. Michael McCaul during a meeting at the Presidential Office. The visit was the first by American politicians since Lai took office last week. Liu Shu Fu/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa