WASHINGTON — Five U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to meet with government officials, defying an admonition from Beijing to stay away from the hotly contested democratic island.
“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Rep Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., wrote on Twitter. “The auto industry’s largest supplier of microchips is here in Taiwan, so supply chain issues will most definitely be on the agenda.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bipartisan delegation that arrived Thursday, led by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., included fellow panel members Slotkin and Reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., as well as Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., according to Reuters, which first reported the trip.
American support for Taiwan’s military and the elevation of unofficial relations with Taiwan in recent years has strained U.S.-China relations. China lays claim to Taiwan and does not have official ties with countries that recognize the autonomous island as an independent nation. As a result, the U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwan, nor does it maintain an embassy there.
Still, the U.S. has upgraded its relationship with Taiwan over the last several years, including through a consular agreement, continued support for Taiwan’s security and visits from U.S. officials. An earlier trip by members of Congress led to the Chinese responding with military exercises near Taiwan.
The U.S. posture toward China’s relationship with Taiwan is one of “strategic ambiguity,” which is designed to leave open the question of how Washington would respond to either a Chinese attack on Taiwan or a siege. President Joe Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting in October that the U.S. would defend Taiwan against an attack, but the White House quickly clarified that there was no change in U.S. policy.
Jonathan Allen is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.