Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told US President Joe Biden’s unofficial representatives on Thursday that the island would work with the US to deter growing threats from the Chinese military.
Former senator Christopher Dodd and former deputy secretaries of state Richard Armitage and James Steinberg touched down in Taipei on Wednesday afternoon, on a trip to signal Biden’s commitment to Taiwan and its democracy.
Tsai told the US delegation at the Presidential Office that Chinese military activities in the region are threatening regional peace and stability.
“We are very willing to work with like-minded countries, including the United States, to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and deter adventurous manoeuvres and provocations,” Tsai said.
Dodd told Tsai the Biden administration would be Taiwan’s “reliable, trusted friend,” and will help the island expand its international space and support its investment in self-defence.
Tsai also told the delegation that Taiwan looks forward to resuming trade talks with the US as soon as possible. Taipei has long sought a free trade deal with Washington.
Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major source of contention with Washington, which is required by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
This week’s delegation comes on the 42nd anniversary of that legislation – the Taiwan Relations Act – which Biden signed when he was a young senator.
Over the past year, Beijing’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably with Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone on a near-daily basis.
25 Chinese aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defence zone on Monday in the largest reported incursion to date.
China announced on Tuesday it would begin five days of live-fire drills off a part of its coast facing Taiwan, which Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters the country would pay close attention to.
“There’s some psychological impact, but don’t get too worked up about this. Everyone should have confidence in the armed forces,” he said.
The unofficial visit is further straining Sino-US relations, and Beijing, which claims self-ruled Taiwan and vows to seize it one day, has blasted the trip.
“China has already lodged stern representations with the US against the sending of personnel to visit Taiwan,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
China on Wednesday described its military exercises near Taiwan as “combat drills” and said the meeting of the US officials with Tsai “will only exacerbate the tense situation in the Taiwan Strait”.