Delegations of French and American legislators are visiting Taiwan, the latest foreign politicians to visit the self-governed island in defiance of Beijing and amid escalated military tension between China and the government in Taipei.
China launched its largest and most aggressive live-fire war drills in years in waters and skies around Taiwan following the visit in August of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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The latest visiting delegations from the US and France are likely to further anger Beijing, which has condemned any diplomatic action likely to confer legitimacy on Taiwan.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday the US delegation’s visit “conveys rock-solid support for Taiwan from the US Congress”.
The delegation of eight US lawmakers, led by Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, arrived on Wednesday.
“This is the sixth visiting US delegation after China’s military exercises in early August, once again demonstrating the high importance and support that the United States attaches to Taiwan,” Taiwan’s presidential office said in a statement.
Five French senators arrived on Tuesday for a six-day visit, marking the fourth delegation by French elected officials to the island in a year and the largest European visit to arrive on the island since the Chinese military exercises were launched last month.
French Senator Cyril Pellevat told journalists on Thursday that France has “stakes in this territory and we consider Taiwan as a partner for stability in this region”.
Taiwan’s top representative in Washington Hsiao Bi-khim has said Beijing’s aggression in the wake of Pelosi’s visit had spurred interest from parliaments around the world to send visitors to the island.
China’s aggression in response to Pelosi’s visit has also sparked broad support in the US for solidarity with Taiwan, which already enjoys rare bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
So far this year, 28 members of Congress have visited Taiwan, the highest number since at least 2013, according to data from Bloomberg News.
Like most nations, the US and France officially recognise Beijing at the expense of Taipei, but they both remain key allies of Taiwan and maintain de facto diplomatic ties with the island.
Official Washington policy opposes both Taipei’s declaration of independence and also China’s forcible change of the Taiwan’s status, though Beijing considers the island as part of its territory to be reconquered one day, if necessary by force.
Murphy said during her meeting with the Taiwanese president that the US Congress “should advocate for greater Taiwanese participation in international organisations”.
Murphy also said deepening economic relations with Taiwan was “one of the most important things Congress can do right now,” particularly by pushing for a “high-quality free trade agreement” between the sides.
Negotiations are under way between the Biden and Tsai administrations on a trade pact.
Murphy was among the US lawmakers who recently introduced a bill that would allow Washington to lend weapons to support Taiwan, similar to a bill that had passed to lend weapons to Ukraine.
The Biden administration last week approved a $1bn arms sale to Taiwan.
Responding on Wednesday to the US arms sale, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China’s opposition to defence cooperation between Washington and Taipei is “consistent and clear”.
“We will resolutely respond to acts that undermine China’s sovereignty and security and interfere in our internal affairs,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing, without giving details.