Congressional group visits Taiwan as China ramps up military presence

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    Days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enraged Chinese officials with a trip to Taiwan, a congressional delegation made an unannounced two-day visit of their own to the island.

    Led by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, the five-member delegation “will meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials, as well as members of the private sector, to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in semiconductors,” reports the Associated Press.

    After Pelosi’s visit earlier this month, the government of China announced that it would extend its threatening military exercises around Taiwan.

    China’s embassy in Washington, D.C. argued the latest congressional visit “once again proves that the U.S. does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Straits and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

    A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, reports Reuters.

    According to the Associated Press, the other members of the delegation are Republican Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen from American Samoa, Democratic House members John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California, and Democratic Rep. Don Beyer from Virginia.

    China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war; however, China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party continues to claim Taiwan as its own territory. In a statement, the Chinese government stated that while it seeks peaceful reunification with Taiwan, “we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities.”

    The United States does not officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country– only 13 countries currently do — however, it does maintain a strong relationship with Taiwan, and has repeatedly vowed to defend the island against potential attacks.

    According to analysis conducted by the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. could lose up to 900 warplanes fighting a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, reports Bloomberg.

    “The results are showing that under most — though not all — scenarios, Taiwan can repel an invasion,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “However, the cost will be very high to the Taiwanese infrastructure and economy and to U.S. forces in the Pacific.”