Delegation Meeting Taiwan Leader Reaffirms US Commitment

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- A delegation of U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday met with Taiwan's president, who promised to deepen military cooperation between the two sides despite objections from China, which claims the island as its own territory.

The group was one of many U.S. delegations President Tsai Ing-wen has welcomed in recent years even as Beijing has stepped up diplomatic and military harassment of Taiwan.

China responded to foreign visits by holding large-scale military exercises seen by some as a rehearsal for a blockade or invasion. Beijing has not ruled out use of force to reunite Taiwan with mainland China, although the sides have been separated since a civil war in 1949, and most Taiwanese prefer to keep the status quo of de-facto independence.

Tsai thanked the lawmakers for coming, saying it was a chance to deepen ongoing cooperation in semiconductor chip design and manufacturing, renewable energy and next-generation 5G mobile network.

"Taiwan and the U.S. (will) continue to bolster military exchanges. Going forward, Taiwan will cooperate even more actively with the U.S. and other democratic partners to confront such bold challenges as authoritarian expansionism and climate change," Tsai said.

Tensions between the U.S. and China inflated after Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that Beijing maintains was an unmanned weather balloon. Both sides are also in opposition on the war in Ukraine, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Sunday that Beijing could be considering providing weapons to Russia for the war.

Taiwan remains a flash point. Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party's most senior foreign policy official, said over the weekend that Taiwan "has never been a country and it will not be a country in the future."

"We are here to affirm the shared values between the U.S. and Taiwan -- a commitment to democracy, a commitment to freedom," California Rep. Ro Khanna said. "The U.S. under President Biden's leadership seeks peace in the region."

He is accompanied by Reps. Tony Gonzales of Texas, Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Jonathan Jackson of Illinois. The group met with their legislative counterparts Monday, as well as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company founder Morris Chang.

Khanna also offered a tribute to former President Jimmy Carter, who recently entered hospice care. He was president when Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. must ensure Taiwan can defend itself.