US senator meets Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in show of support for island
David Perdue and Tsai exchanged views on regional peace, cross-strait issues and bilateral trade in second visit by a US heavyweight this week
US Senator David Perdue, one of President Donald Trump’s closest supporters in the Senate, added a Taiwan stop to his Asia trip in a show of support for the island after it lost two more diplomatic allies to Beijing last month.
The Dominican Republic terminated official ties with Taiwan in early May, followed by Burkina Faso last week – leaving the self-ruled island with just 18 allies left as Beijing uses economic lures to gain diplomatic support and put the squeeze on Taipei.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province subject to eventual unification, by force if necessary. Cross-strait tensions have been rising since President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power two years ago and refused to accept the one-China principle, prompting Beijing to suspend official exchanges with the island.
Perdue, a Republican senator who sits on the Armed Services Committee, met Tsai in Taipei on Friday, Taiwan’s presidential office said in a statement.
He reiterated Washington’s commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and expressed its appreciation for the island’s long-standing support of the US and its contribution to the region, the statement said.
Perdue and Tsai also exchanged views on regional peace, cross-strait issues and bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
The US senator is a long-time supporter of Taiwan, including its participation in international bodies such as the World Health Assembly and Interpol. He recently voted in favour of the US National Defence Authorisation Act for fiscal 2019 that calls for high-level military exchanges between the US and Taiwan and the supply of defensive weapons for the island.
He was the second heavyweight US congressman to visit the island this week after fellow Republican Cory Gardner, head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy, also changed his travel plans to add Taiwan to his Asia trip.
Gardner also met Tsai and reportedly emphasised the importance of Taiwan’s security in the face of Beijing’s military expansion in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
On Friday, Tsai expressed her appreciation for Perdue’s visit and his support for Taiwan.
“More and more good friends are extending support to us at a time when Taiwan is facing growing challenges in the international community,” she said. “The international order jointly enjoyed by Taiwan and the US has encountered traditional and non-traditional challenges. Taiwan, the US and other like-minded countries should stand up to protect the democratic values that they share.”
Observers say Taiwan is looking to the United States and Japan for backing as it comes under mounting pressure from Beijing. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told lawmakers this week that the island should step up efforts to build relations with nations it does not have official diplomatic ties with, especially “like-minded countries”. He also said Taiwan must boost its profile in the Indo-Pacific, echoing the US regional strategy of including India as one of its security partners in countering the mainland in the region.