Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan bolstering military exchanges with US

President says allies working closely together to deal with global challenges including ‘authoritarian expansionism’.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen standing with military and civilian officials at a military base in Chiayi. There is a large Taiwan flag behind them
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (centre) visits a military base in Chiayi last month [File: Sam Yeh/AFP]

Taiwan is bolstering its military ties with the United States and will cooperate even more closely with it and other friendly nations to deal with “authoritarian expansionism”, President Tsai Ing-wen has told a group of visiting lawmakers from the United States.

The bipartisan delegation including Ro Khanna from California and Tony Gonzales from Texas arrived on the self-ruled island on Sunday amid heightened tensions between the US and China over an alleged Chinese spy balloon.

The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier.

“Taiwan and the United States continue to bolster military exchanges, and going forward Taiwan will cooperate even more actively with the United States and other democratic partners to confront such global challenges as authoritarian expansionism and climate change,” Tsai told the five lawmakers at her office in Taipei. No further details were given.

While the United States no longer maintains military bases in Taiwan, the countries’ military ties have deepened as China has stepped up pressure on the island, which it claims as its own.

Illustrating the strength of ties with the United States, the delegation is on the island after a sensitive visit by a senior Pentagon official on Friday that was reported by the Financial Times.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no information about any such visit.

China opposes any form of exchange between Taiwan and foreign governments. Nor has it ruled out the use of force to take control of the island.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen shakes hands with US lawmaker Ron Khanna. They are in her office and there's a Taiwan flag behind.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met US lawmaker Ro Khanna in Taipei. Khanna is leading a five member delegation to the self-ruled island [Taiwan Presidential Office via Reuters]

Khanna, a member of the US House China Select Committee, told Tsai the group, which on Monday met the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), was there to boost security and economic ties. TSMC is the world’s largest contract chipmaker.

In August, China staged its largest ever military exercises around Taiwan, including sending missiles over the island, after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the Taiwanese people can decide their future.

“Our efforts to come here are in no way provocative of China, but consistent with the president’s foreign policy that recognises the importance of the relationship like Taiwan, while still seeking ultimately, peace in the region,” Khanna said on Monday.

Tensions between the US and China increased again last month after Washington accused Beijing of sending a spy balloon over North America and Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling his planned trip to Beijing. The craft, which Beijing said was a weather balloon that had gone off course, was eventually shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

Source: News Agencies