House lawmakers visit Taiwan as China warns US to stay out

Taipei, Taiwan A delegation of House members is visiting Taiwan this week to meet with newly elected lawmakers, despite China warning them not to intervene in the island and stepping up military exercises around the island.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is leading the multi-day diplomatic trip, which comes a week after President and Vice President Lai Ching-te were inaugurated with defiant speeches highlighting Taiwan’s independence from Beijing’s Communist Party.

“Leading this historic bipartisan CODEL to Taiwan will mark the first U.S. congressional delegation to meet with newly elected Taiwanese officials and send a message to the Chinese Communist Party that the United States stands with the Taiwanese people and is committed to maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” McCaul told Fox News Digital. “I look forward to meeting with senior Taiwanese officials and members of private organizations to continue strengthening our relationship on all fronts.”

The bipartisan group also includes Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.), chairman of the Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, as well as Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Joe Wilson (Scottish Parliament).

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul leads a delegation to Taiwan as China steps up military exercises in the region. (Pictured right: Taiwanese troops conduct military exercises on May 23, 2024, after China conducts large-scale joint military exercises around Taiwan.) (Getty Images)

Panetta told Fox News Digital that the visit sent an important pro-democracy message around the world.

“Democracies around the world must unite in defense of our shared values ​​and freedoms,” Panetta said. “The bipartisan visit to Taiwan today demonstrates that necessary partnership. I congratulate President Lai Ching-te on his inauguration, and look forward to continuing to strengthen the ties between our two nations as we look ahead to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the region.”

Meanwhile, China’s military is conducting a menacing show of force with drills including “maritime attack, ground attack, air defense and anti-submarine attacks in air and water areas north and south of the island of Taiwan,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

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Taiwan Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The visit came one week after the inauguration of Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te (right), pictured next to former president Tsai Ing-wen (left). (AP Photo/Qiang Yingying)

China’s defence ministry said the drills involved “joint seizure of overall battlefield control and joint precision strikes on key targets” and served as “severe punishment for the separatist acts of the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it tracked 49 Chinese military aircraft and 19 Chinese naval vessels operating around Taiwan on Friday, and denounced the Chinese drills as an “unreasonable provocation.”

In his inaugural speech, Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-hua vowed to “neither bow nor provoke” Beijing but to take a firm stance against Chinese aggression.

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Chinese warships in the Indo-Pacific

A screenshot captured from the video shows the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command launching a large-scale joint military exercise with Chinese naval vessels and military aircraft around Taiwan on May 24, 2024. (Kui Xinhua News Agency/People’s Liberation Army/Chinese military/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Chinese government has reprimanded the new leader, and senior Communist Party officials have directly warned U.S. lawmakers not to meet with him or any other Taiwanese government officials.

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“The parliamentarians’ visits to Taiwan are a serious violation of the one-China principle, interfere in China’s internal affairs, undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and send a serious wrong message to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said over the weekend.

Wen Bin called on the United States to halt official diplomatic communications with Taiwan “or else all consequences arising from it shall be borne by the United States.”