A group of US lawmakers visiting Taiwan have met senior officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen, to discuss the island’s defence in the face of growing military threats from Beijing. The 13-member congressional delegation, including four senators and two House of Representatives members – all Republicans – arrived in Taipei on a US military plane for an unannounced trip on Tuesday. They visited Taiwan’s defence ministry and met Tsai in what has been an unusually low-key trip, local media reported. The group was received by Lieutenant General Yang Ching-se, deputy chief of the island’s General Staff for Intelligence, who “briefed them on the latest threat and pressure ramped up by the Chinese Communist forces on Taiwan,” the Taipei-based United Daily News reported. Yang’s office primarily deals with intelligence on the mainland’s People’s Liberation Army. Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng was present during the briefing, the daily said. This came as Beijing sent six warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Wednesday, in a warning over the US group’s visit. According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, they included four fighter jets, one electronic warfare and one early warning aircraft. While the defence ministry and the presidential office were tight-lipped over the US group’s activities on the island, they declined to comment on or deny the reports. The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, directed reporters to Senator John Cornyn’s office for queries. The Texas senator is part of the visiting US team, which also includes senators Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Mike Lee of Utah and Mike Crapo of Idaho. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the group’s itinerary was arranged by the American Institute’s Taipei office, and the ministry had merely offered the necessary administrative assistance and coordinated with the Central Epidemic Command Centre on measures related to Covid-19 prevention. Asked if the US group was in Taiwan to discuss defence cooperation issues, Premier Su Tseng-chang said: “We thank the US for voicing its support for us in various international arenas and we hope our interactions will benefit our relations and cooperation in various areas.” “As for visits between friends, we have made the most appropriate arrangements in line with their wishes,” he told reporters on Wednesday. US senators introduce legislation to strengthen defence ties with Taiwan Cornyn is a known supporter of Taipei and, along with Crapo, is sponsoring a draft Taiwan Deterrence Act aimed across the Taiwan Strait, to bolster the island’s ability to defend itself against aggression and coercion from Beijing. Led by Republican Senator Jim Risch, the draft bill tabled on November 4 seeks to authorise US$2 billion a year in foreign military financing for Taiwan from 2023 to 2032. Crapo said Beijing was making increasing efforts to militarily overwhelm Taiwan and described its behaviour as a a threat to international diplomacy and regional security. He also said it was “imperative to get asymmetric capabilities, training and readiness resources to Taiwan quickly so it can protect itself from China’s encroaching aggression in the Indo-Pacific region”. The legislation will require Taiwan to meet “certain conditions” for the funding, including committing to match US spending, and both sides agreeing “to conduct joint long-range planning for capability development”, according to the bill. It would also amend the Arms Export Control Act to better facilitate weapons transfers to Taiwan and require an annual assessment of its efforts to advance a credible defence strategy against mainland China. The US lawmakers’ visit, although low-profile, triggered strong protest from Beijing, which responded with a joint forces “combat readiness” patrol towards the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, after slamming the Americans for “rude interference in China’s internal affairs”. Beijing views Taiwan as breakaway territory that must be brought back under control, by force if necessary. It has time and again warned the US against official and military contact with the self-ruled island, and views US officials taking military planes to Taiwan as highly provocative moves that might lead to cross-strait conflict. Taiwanese lawmakers, however, called the visit meaningful. “This represents strong support of the US Congress to Taiwan, and their visit would help further deepen US-Taiwan relations,” said Lai Shyh-bao, a legislator of the main opposition Kuomintang. Hsu Chih-chieh, a lawmaker from Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, pointed out that Beijing has long opposed the US sending military planes to Taiwan. “China should learn to get used to this,” he said, adding that the sending of US military planes to Taiwan could in a way deter Beijing’s attempts to use military drills to threaten the island.