New US delegation travels to Taiwan amid escalating tensions with China
The Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, traveled to the island on Monday, as four Chinese aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier
The president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, received a new delegation of high-ranking American officials on Monday. The trip comes 20 days after US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, visited the island, infuriating China, which views Taiwan as its own territory. Following Pelosi’s visit, a second delegation of US lawmakers traveled to the island on August 14.
The two-day trip, led by the Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, marks the third time a US delegation has traveled to Taiwan in a month. It threatens to further escalate tensions with China, which launched threatening military drills around Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit. The second delegation on August 14 also sparked fresh military drills near the island. On Monday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said four Chinese aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier, as China continues its military activities near the island. The delegation’s visit also comes as the United States and South Korea launch their largest military drills in years, under North Korea’s watchful eye.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was received coolly by the White House, which was concerned it would threaten its diplomatic efforts with Beijing. The move, however, was supported by Republicans, such as Eric Holcomb. During his meeting with the Taiwanese president, Holcomb promised to continue collaborating with the island in the coming years and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs aimed at facilitating business, as well as trade and scientific cooperation.
“Taiwan has been confronted by military threats from China, in and around the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai told Holcomb during a meeting at her office in Taipei. “At this moment, democratic allies must stand together and boost cooperation across all areas.”
Holcomb is due to meet representatives of Taiwan’s semiconductor companies on his visit amid an expansion of links between his state and the island, which is home to the world’s largest contact chip maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC). According to TrendForce, 64% of global chips come from TSMC. In the past, senior Chinese officials have called for China to take over the company, which has close links to the United States. TSMC is building a $12 billion semiconductor production plant in Arizona.
“Economic security is an important pillar of national and regional security,” she added. “Taiwan is willing and able to strengthen cooperation with democratic partners in building sustainable supply chains for democracy chips.”
On August 17, Washington announced it would begin formal trade talks with Taiwan in early fall. This measure was first unveiled the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade in June. China firmly opposes these talks, even though Beijing signed a similar deal on economic cooperation with the Taiwanese authorities in 2010.
In response to the visits of US officials, China placed sanctions on several officials and politicians, accusing them of promoting the independence of Taiwan. These sanctions will prevent them from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. President Tsai is not among those sanctioned, but Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu have been included on the sanctions list since December 2021.
Taiwan is not a special administrative region of China, like Hong Kong and Macao, but functions as a de facto state, with a democratically elected government, a constitution and an army of some 300,000 soldiers. China, however, considers the island a “rebel” province with an illegitimate government.
Chinese diplomacy is based on the “One China” principle; that is, there is only one China, and it includes Taiwan. Washington maintains that it continues to respect the “One China” principle, although these statements have down little to appease Beijing.