‘We will not be bullied’: US politician arrives in Taiwan

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn will meet Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in visit condemned by Beijing.

United States Senator Marsha Blackburn stands with a senior Taiwanese official at the airport in Taipei, Taiwan, on Thursday night.
US Senator Marsha Blackburn was greeted at the airport by senior Taiwan official Douglas Yu-Tien Hsu [Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP Photo]

A senior politician from the United States has arrived in Taiwan in the latest visit by an American politician this month, despite intense pressure from Beijing not to visit the self-ruled island.

Marsha Blackburn, a Republican senator for the state of Tennessee who sits on the Senate’s Commerce and Armed Services committees, landed in Taiwan late on Thursday after visiting the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

She was greeted by Douglas Yu-Tien Hsu, director general of Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry, Blackburn’s office said.

“I just landed in Taiwan to send a message to Beijing — we will not be bullied,” she tweeted.

“The United States remains steadfast in preserving freedom around the globe, and will not tolerate efforts to undermine our nation and our allies.”

In a separate statement, Blackburn said she was looking forward to “meeting with leaders in Taipei to advance and strengthen our partnerships”, and that such visits were a “long-standing U.S. policy”.

Blackburn is the latest US politician to travel to the democratic island since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited in early August.

After Pelosi’s visit, Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own, staged large-scale military sea and air exercises that included firing missiles over the island. China has not ruled out the use of force to take control of Taiwan, and sees high-level foreign visits to the island as “interference” in its affairs. Pelosi was the most senior US elected official to visit the island in 25 years.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Blackburn would meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning, as well as top security official Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

“The two sides will exchange views extensively on issues such as Taiwan-U.S. security and economic and trade relations,” the ministry added in a brief statement.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, DC, said Beijing would take unspecified “resolute countermeasures” in response to what he called US “provocations”.

“The relevant visit once again proves that the U.S. does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Strait and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Liu said in a statement.

Beijing held more military exercises after a group of five US legislators visited the island in the wake of Pelosi’s trip.

The US, which has formal diplomatic ties with Beijing, has reiterated that congressional trips to Taiwan are routine. Washington follows a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity‘ on the island and is bound by law to provide it with the means to defend itself.

“Members of Congress and elected officials have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, and this is in line with our longstanding One China policy,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said in response to a question about Blackburn’s visit.

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

The government this week announced a near 14 percent jump in defence spending to include funding for new fighter jets and other military equipment.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies