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China and Taiwan's relationship explained
02:38 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on March 8, 2023, because an earlier version of the story did not meet CNN editorial standards.

Washington CNN  — 

For the second time this month, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers has made an informal visit to Taiwan.

California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs committee, led the trip Thursday to the democratic, self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory. The five-person delegation included Democratic Reps. Colin Allred of Texas, Sara Jacobs of California and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, as well as Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

“After celebrating Thanksgiving with US troops in Korea, I just touched down in Taiwan. After stops in Japan and Korea, it’ll be good to connect with leaders here to discuss a whole host of economic and national security issues,” Slotkin said in a tweet.

Slotkin said that her office had received “a blunt message” from the Chinese Embassy telling her “to call off the trip” when news reports surfaced about the lawmakers’ visit. “But just as with other stops,” she said, “we’re here to learn about the region and reaffirm the US commitment to our hosts, the Taiwanese. I’m looking forward to an informative trip.”

Reuters first reported on the trip.

Taipei holds a fraught position in the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing, with relations between China and Taiwan at their lowest point in decades. China in recent months has increased its military posturing and warplane flights around Taiwan.

The news of the lawmakers’ trip comes a day after the Biden administration invited Taiwan to its “Summit for Democracy” next month, a move Reuters has reported the Chinese government dubbed a “mistake.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden made clear that he was not encouraging Taiwan’s “independence” after using the word to describe the progress he had made during a discussion of the island with his Chinese counterpart.

“I said that they have to decide – Taiwan, not us. We are not encouraging independence,” Biden said on an airport tarmac in New Hampshire, where he was promoting his recently signed infrastructure law.

“We’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” he went on, referring to the 1979 law dictating the American approach to the island. “That’s what we’re doing. Let them make up their mind. Period.”

Explaining his position while greeting attendees following his infrastructure speech that day, Biden said he had made limited progress on the topic with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We made very clear we support the Taiwan Act, and that’s it,” he said.

Earlier this month, an unspecified group of US lawmakers landed in Taipei on a Boeing C-40 military plane, and subsequently took off for Okinawa after a brief stay at the airport. The delegation’s arrival sparked immediate condemnation from China, with Beijing describing the trip as an “act of provocation.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that visit and said the trip was arranged by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in Taipei. It did not disclose the names of the lawmakers involved in the visit, nor their itinerary.

The American Institute in Taiwan did not confirm a list of lawmakers but directed CNN at the time to Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn’s office.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that the trip “seriously violated the one-China principle” and demanded the US “immediately stop any form of official interaction with Taiwan.”

“We urge the US congressmen to recognize the situation. Collaborating with the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces is a dangerous game; playing with ‘Taiwan independence’ will eventually lead to fire,” Wang said.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby had told reporters following the unspecified group’s visit that “congressional delegation visits to Taiwan are fairly routine” and the visit was “in keeping with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, which has been supported by multiple administrations, both Democratic and Republican, that reinforces our requirement to help Taiwan with its self-defense needs.”