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Taiwan’s foreign ministry says the visit was arranged by Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. Photo: Reuters

US lawmakers including John Cornyn, Mike Crapo make surprise trip to Taiwan

  • Four senators and two members of the House of Representatives land in US Navy plane on trip organised by Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei, report says
  • Beijing says visit amounts to ‘rude interference in China’s internal affairs’
A delegation of US lawmakers including Republican senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama landed in Taiwan on Tuesday in a surprise visit organised by Washington’s de facto embassy on the island.

The group boarded a US Navy C-40A plane from Manila and arrived at Taipei Songshan Airport at around 6pm, according to Taiwanese news reports.

The presence of Cornyn and Tuberville was confirmed by two sources familiar with the trip. One of those sources, who said that six lawmakers were in the travelling group, said it also included senators Mike Crapo of Idaho and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as Representative Jake Ellzey of Texas, also all Republicans.

Beijing called the lawmakers’ trip an act of provocation and later conducted a combat readiness patrol in the region in response to what it called “gravely mistaken words and actions” by other countries concerning Taiwan.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the trip but did not identify who was in the delegation. Photo: AP

The US Department of Defence on Tuesday confirmed the visit, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby telling reporters in Washington that it was the second such congressional trip to the island this year. He did not offer details on who was in the delegation.

“It’s not a Pentagon delegation … but it is not uncommon for them to be transported on US military aircraft, and that was the case in this instance,” Kirby said, adding that all trips by US lawmakers to Taiwan are “in keeping with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act”.

Taipei-based Mirror Media reported that the visitors included four US senators, two members of the House of Representatives and seven aides.

None of the offices of the four senators or Ellzey responded to queries seeking confirmation of their participation in the trip.

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The island’s foreign ministry said the visit was arranged by the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s informal embassy there.

“Regarding the Taiwan visit by the US representatives and senators, their relevant itineraries were arranged by the Taipei office of the AIT, and the foreign ministry is offering the necessary administrative assistance and coordinating with the Central Epidemic Command Centre on measures related to the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the ministry said late on Tuesday.


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It said the visit was a result of discussion between Taiwan and the United States and “to respect the wishes of the visitors, [the ministry] would make public relevant information about the trip at an appropriate time”.

The Presidential Office said that, respecting the visitors’ wishes, it could offer no “further information” about the trip. Institute officials were not available for comment on Tuesday night, and the US State Department declined to comment.

Beijing’s defence ministry denounced the visit as a “rude interference in China’s internal affairs”.

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“We hereby warn the US side to immediately stop its provocative actions, immediately cease all destructive actions that lead to the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and stop sending wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said in a statement.

Shortly after that statement, the ministry announced it had dispatched a military patrol towards the Taiwan Strait to test its forces’ combat readiness. Without naming the US, the ministry said that the military action was a response to “relevant countries’ gravely mistaken words and actions on the Taiwan issue and the activities of separatist forces in Taiwan”.

Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington against sending officials or having formal contacts with Taiwan. It views the island as a rogue province that must be reunited with the mainland eventually, by force if necessary.

In June, a three-hour visit by three US senators on a military transport plane prompted Beijing to warn of grave consequences for both Taiwan and the US.


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During their brief stop, the three visitors held closed-door meetings with Taiwanese officials and announced a US plan to donate supplies of Covid-19 vaccines to the island.

In April, a former US senator and two ex-State Department officials also held talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing sent warplanes to harass Taiwan during or soon after the visits.

According to a report by Taiwan’s military on Tuesday, mainland warplanes made 554 “intrusions” into the island’s southwestern air defence identification zone between September 2020 and the end of August.

Cross-strait relations have deteriorated since Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle backed by Beijing.

Additional reporting by Owen Churchill, Mark Magnier, Jacob Fromer and Robert Delaney