During a recent visit of U.S. officials to Taiwan, representatives from both countries reiterated commitment to the U.S.-Taiwan alliance, emphasizing the relationship’s importance to maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
The visit comes amid increased tension between China and Taiwan. After the Kuomingtang fled mainland China to the island of Taiwan following the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover of the country in 1949, it established the Republic of China there. To this day, Taiwan operates independently of mainland China. However, the Chinese regime still claims sovereignty over the island, regarding it as a province that broke away.
After Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016, relations between Beijing and Taiwan have been strained. Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party she leads do not recognize Beijing’s “one China” policy and are generally more skeptical of the intentions of the Chinese regime. In recent months, Beijing has also stepped up military drills near Taiwan, adding to hostilities.
Against this backdrop, U.S. Senator James Inhofe, co-chair of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, led a delegation of 19 lawmakers and Congressional aides to Taiwan to discuss partnerships between the two countries as well as regional security.
At a press conference on Feb. 21, Inhofe reiterated the importance of Taiwan to the United States’ strategy in the Indo-Pacific, noting that the relationship was reciprocal and has not diminished, according to Central News Agency, Taiwan’s official news agency.
“We are arguably your best partner and you’re our best partner, too,” Inhofe said.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she hopes to work with the United States to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” adding that the two countries are a good partnership because “we all believe that freedom and human rights are essential factors to maintaining the region’s stability, peace, and prosperity.”
“As long as both parties hold fast to those values together, the Taiwan-U.S. relationship will not be easily infringed upon.” she said.
Inhofe added that the United States will continue to sell arms to the island, noting that many U.S. manufacturers are interested in negotiating a deal. The Chinese regime has continually opposed the United States’ arms sales to Taiwan. A $1.42 billion arms deal announced in June 2017 drew Beijing’s ire.
U.S. Senator Michael Rounds similarly expressed that the United States intends to continue an alliance with Taiwan, which includes providing equipment and training.
While both parties did not elaborate on what specific items they discussed, Inhofe did note that the delegation talked about the possibility of a trade deal involving U.S. exports of natural gas, as well as American agricultural produce such as corn, wheat, and soybeans.
The delegation arrived in Taiwan on Feb. 20 and stayed until Feb. 22.
Zhong Yuan contributed to this report.