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Weapons are on the way, U.S. lawmakers tell Taiwan during visit

The bipartisan delegation led by Rep. Michael McCaul was the first group of current U.S. officials to meet with new Taiwan President Lai Ching-te.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Weapons that Taiwan has ordered from the U.S. are coming, a senior U.S. lawmaker said Monday, as a bipartisan House delegation met with the Beijing-claimed island’s new president.

A U.S. congressional delegation met Taiwan's new leader on Monday in a show of support shortly after China held drills around the self-governing island in response to his inauguration speech.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, meets Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te in Taipei on Monday.Taiwan Presidential Office / AP

Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that rejects China’s sovereignty claims, has complained of delays in the delivery of U.S. weapons seen as crucial in defending it against potential invasion by Beijing, which has not ruled out using force in achieving its aims.

“We are moving forward on those weapons systems,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said at a news conference in Taipei after he and other lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te. “I’d like to see them faster, but they are forthcoming.”

McCaul said the weapons’ importance was underscored by the “armada” of Chinese ships and planes that engaged in “punishment” drills around Taiwan last week in response to Lai’s inauguration speech. In that speech, Lai, the former vice president, called on China to cease its threats and “face the reality” of Taiwan’s existence.

In translated remarks before his closed-door meeting with the lawmakers, Lai said the delegation’s visit “demonstrates your firm support for the new government as well as the people of Taiwan.”

Though the U.S. has no formal relations with Taiwan, it is the island’s most important international backer.

Last month, Congress passed an aid package that included almost $2 billion in support for Taiwan’s military, an investment McCaul argues is crucial for keeping peace in the region and making China question the value in attacking its neighbor.

“We have to demonstrate that the consequences would be way too severe, the risks would outweigh the advantages,” McCaul said in an interview Monday.

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“The first thing is we’ve got to get these weapons in,” he said.

In recent years China has been stepping up military and other pressure on Taiwan, including sending military planes and ships toward it almost daily. On Monday, the Taiwan National Defense Ministry said that as of 6 a.m. local time it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft, 11 Chinese naval vessels and four Chinese coast guard vessels around the island in the previous 24 hours.

Speaking at the news conference, Taiwan Foreign Minister Lin Chia-lung told the U.S. lawmakers that the joint military exercises last week were China’s “way of welcoming this delegation” and that “your visit in this critical time is a powerful gesture.”

A U.S. congressional delegation met Taiwan's new leader on Monday in a show of support shortly after China held drills around the self-governing island in response to his inauguration speech.
Lai, right, with McCaul in Taipei on Monday.Taiwan Presidential Office / AP

China objects to visits to Taiwan by delegations of foreign lawmakers like the one led by McCaul, whom Beijing sanctioned after a similar trip in April 2023.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said Monday that the U.S. lawmakers’ visit violated the U.S. commitment to maintain only unofficial relations with Taiwan and that it had lodged “solemn representations.”

“China firmly opposes military ties between the U.S. and Taiwan, opposes arming Taiwan and urges relevant U.S. lawmakers to stop playing the Taiwan card,” spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The other members of the delegation are Reps. Young Kim, R-Calif.; Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Andy Barr, R-Ky.; Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif.; and Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa.

McCaul added that the U.S. would continue to support Taiwan no matter who wins the U.S. presidential election in November, President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

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“I don’t see either two candidates taking a weak position on China when it comes to Taiwan,” he said in the interview.

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