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

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

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, US Senator Marsha Blackburn exchange gifts with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan on Aug 26, 2022. (Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

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

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory against the strong objections of the democratically elected government in Taipei, launched military drills near the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited in early August.

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

Meeting at the presidential office, 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 Tsai's social media pages.

China's foreign ministry said on Friday that Blackburn's visit to Taiwan "seriously violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques", adding that it "goes against the US’ commitment of maintaining only non-official ties with the Taiwan region".

"The Chinese side deplores and firmly rejects this."

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

Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who sits on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, told Tsai that the United States and Taiwan shared the 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.

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 United States.

"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.

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

US legislators are not the only ones to visit. 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.

China's huge military drills around Taiwan have only made allies more determined to visit the island democracy and show solidarity, he added.

Wu also said Taiwan will not stop making friends just because of the Chinese threats against the island.

"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," he 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."

Beijing has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.

On Wednesday, the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army said it recently conducted military exercises in the waters and airspace around Taiwan. 

"This is a regular military operation organised in response to changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait," it said, adding that troops will continue to train and prepare for war.

Taiwan's government says the People's Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

Source: Reuters/ga/rj

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