A five-member congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, less than two weeks after the contentious visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that infuriated China and drew intense Chinese military drills off the island’s coast.
The bipartisan group, led by Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, was welcomed by Taiwanese officials who said they appreciated the show of solidarity during the escalating tensions with Beijing.
There was no immediate response from Beijing, but the presence of the five American lawmakers so quickly after Pelosi’s visit was likely to provoke a sharp reaction, possibly of more military exercises, analysts said.
The visit was apparently planned months ago, said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“Many congressmen want to visit to show US support,” Glaser said. Another congressional group is expected to visit Taiwan before the end of the month, she added.
One member of the delegation, Representative John Garamendi, a California Democrat, is the chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, a panel that has direct input into the Pentagon’s spending on Taiwan’s military needs.
The group is expected to meet Monday with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and to consult with the foreign affairs and national defense committees of Taiwan’s legislature, a statement by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“We thank the like-minded U.S. lawmakers for the timely visit and unwavering support,” the ministry said.
China’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit — the first by a speaker in 25 years — was designed to menace Taiwan and warn US allies in Asia about supporting Taiwan.
After the visit, Beijing fired five missiles into waters that are part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a warning to Japan and the United States about coming to the aid of Taiwan in the event of a conflict. Last week, China wrapped up 72 hours of live-fire exercises that encircled Taiwan and that simulated a blockade of the island. China’s air force continues to fly military aircraft daily across the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
China insists that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy supported with US defense capabilities, is its territory. President Xi Jinping has vowed to take Taiwan, by force if necessary.
China is very likely to respond to the congressional visit, said Charles Kupchan, professor of international relations at Georgetown University, who served on the National Security Council in the Obama administration.
“I expect Beijing to take steps to express its displeasure, like it did with Pelosi,” Kupchan said. “This is how confrontation builds.”
After the three days of shock-and-awe live-fire military drills using jet fighters, warships, and missiles, Beijing issued a policy document on Taiwan last week, called a White Paper, that reiterated Beijing’s determination to make the island part of China.
Given the intensity of China’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the situation remained “extremely volatile,” said Lyle Goldstein, an expert on China’s military and director of Asia engagement at Defense Priorities, a Washington research group.
The visit by the delegation “may contribute to the escalation cycle we have been witnessing over the last five years,” Goldstein added. “The US and China are now on a dangerous collision course.”