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US lawmakers visit Taiwan, pledge support for Chinese military exercises

 


After China carried out two days of military exercises designed to punish Taiwan, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul on Monday stood alongside the island nations' newly elected president, Lai Ching-te, and made a promise.

The United States must maintain its ability to resist any use of force or coercion that endangers the security of the Taiwanese people, said Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman McCaul. This is what we stand for and this is what we continue to say.

Mr. McCaul, a Republican, traveled to Taipei this week with a bipartisan delegation of other U.S. lawmakers in an attempt, he said, to show that the U.S. government stood with Mr. Lai and Taiwan.

The week-long trip comes at a difficult time: Just days after Mr. Lai took the oath and promised in his inaugural speech to defend Taiwan's sovereignty, China responded by encircling the self-governing island of Taiwan. warships and military aircraft. Before the lawmakers arrived, the Chinese government publicly warned them to seriously adhere to the One-China policy and not schedule a congressional visit to Taiwan.

Just a few days ago, China conducted two days of military exercises across the Taiwan Strait to express its dissatisfaction with President Lai, Lin Chia-lung, Taiwan's foreign minister, said Monday. to Mr. McCaul during a press conference.

It can be said that in this critical period, this is a powerful demonstration, Lin added.

Although many Republicans in Congress balked at providing continued U.S. military aid to Ukraine, support for Taiwan remained a largely bipartisan initiative. A number of conservatives have argued that the United States should withdraw investments in Ukraine and strengthen deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region. In April, the House of Representatives approved $8 billion for Taiwan by a vote of 385 to 34.

Even though there are debates in other theaters of war, Mr. McCaul said, I can tell you that there is no division or dissension when it comes to Taiwan in Congress.

But profound challenges remain. Although there are few political obstacles to approving new aid tranches for Taiwan, the backlog of orders for weapons and military equipment not delivered to the island by the United States is mounting at almost 20 billion dollars. Some weapons systems approved by Washington for Taiwan in 2020 have not yet been sent.

By far the largest portion of the undelivered inventory is an order approved by the Trump administration in 2019 for 66 F-16 fighter jets, which represents more than 40% of the order backlog, according to Eric Gomez, a researcher at the Institute Cato of Washington. Washington who, with a co-researcher, produced a current estimate of delays. Other items expected by Taiwan include a Harpoon coastal defense system, mobile rocket launchers called HIMARS and Abrams tanks.

The additional $8 billion in military spending support for Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region approved by Congress would not reduce the backlog much, Mr. Gomez said. That amount includes $1.9 billion to allow the Pentagon to release weapons from U.S. stockpiles to send to Taiwan, with the money then used to replenish U.S. stockpiles. But the United States does not have the capacity in its stockpile to send them, Mr. Gomez said.

And Taiwan's supporters increasingly fear that Western allies, chief among them the United States, will become bogged down in further intractable conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East that will further erode their ability to send weapons. .

The Taiwanese look at what happened in Hong Kong, they look at Afghanistan, they look at Putin, Mr. McCaul said in an interview. They're worried it's the next shoe to drop, and they should be.

“I don’t want anyone to think we can’t support Taiwan because of Ukraine,” he added. The products intended for Ukraine are old, notably those of NATO; This is all brand new for Taiwan. But I just think our defense industrial base is currently overburdened and can't handle as much conflict in the world.

Mr. Lai, in his remarks to the President's Office, alluded to the crucial role the United States played in helping the Taiwanese people defend their homeland. He praised former President Ronald Reagan, a favorite of conservatives, and especially President Mike Johnson, who frequently quotes him for his view of peace through strength.

With your support, I hope that Congress, through legislative action, will continue to help Taiwan, Lai said.

The purpose of the delegation's visit, Mr. McCaul said, was to show lawmakers their commitment to doing just that. He said he was heartened by the lack of backlash he and other Republicans received after Congress decided to pass the massive aid package to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

You can see the impact of this vote here, Mr. McCaul said. This has real consequences; it is not a political game on the ground. This has real consequences here and in Ukraine.

The visiting delegation includes Mr. McCaul and Representatives Young Kim, Republican of California; Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina; Jimmy Panetta, Democrat of California; Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky; and Chrissy Houlahan, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

Christopher Buckley contributed reporting.

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/27/world/asia/us-visit-taiwan-president-china-drills.html

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