United States Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Thursday became the latest member of Congress to visit Taiwan defying pressure from Beijing, saying, “I will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island.”
The trip by Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, follows a number of recent visits by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other US officials.
“Taiwan is our strongest partner in the Indo-Pacific Region. Regular high-level visits to Taipei are long-standing US policy,” Blackburn said in a statement Thursday.
The visit by Pelosi, who earlier this month became the highest-ranking US official to touch down on the island in 25 years, was cited by Beijing as the trigger for several days of large-scale military exercises in which China fired missiles over Taiwan and flew waves of warplanes into its air defense identification zone.
China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan is part of its territory, despite having never governed it, and has refused to rule out the use of force to bring it under control.
The US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the island with defensive weapons and has remained intentionally ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
In tweets Friday morning, the US senator, who does not represent the Biden administration, reiterated her support for Taiwan.
“I will never kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party,” she said in one. “I will continue to stand with the (Taiwanese) and their right to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping doesn’t scare me,” she added later, referring to China’s leader.
Meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning, Blackburn emphasized the values of democracy and freedom, which she said Washington shares with Taiwan.
“It is important indeed that freedom loving nations support Taiwan as they seek to support to preserve their independence and their freedom,” Blackburn said.
Tsai said the recent visits by US public figures have “reinforced Taiwan’s determination to defend itself.”
“We look forward to continuing to help and support Taiwan as they push forward as an independent nation,” Blackburn said.
Under the longstanding “One China” policy, the US acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially recognized the Communist Party’s claim to the self-governing island of 23 million.
The US senator will also meet the Secretary-General of the National Security Council Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu during her three-day visit, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said.
China had no immediate comment on Blackburn’s visit, but has made plain its anger since Pelosi’s visit with both the military exercises and statements saying the actions of US politicians and government polices are threatening the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.
China’s Foreign Ministry condemned Pelosi for what it described as her “vicious and provocative actions,” saying her trip to Taiwan amounted to “seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
“US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on visiting Taiwan in disregard of China’s serious concerns and firm opposition, seriously interfering in China’s internal affairs, seriously undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, seriously trampling on the one-China principle, and seriously threatening the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the ministry said.
Gladys Tsai in Taipei and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed to this report.