A U.S. lawmaker defied what she says was a stern demand from China that she abandon a trip to Taiwan, a move that risks escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, wrote on Twitter shortly after landing in Taiwan late Thursday as part of a trip that that also includes Japan and South Korea.
“But just as with other stops, we’re here to learn about the region and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to our hosts, the Taiwanese,” she added. “I’m looking forward to an informative trip.”
China regards matters relating to Taiwan as internal even though it has never ruled the island. When a separate group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in democratically ruled Taiwan on an American military plane earlier this month, China’s military said it conducted joint operations in the Taiwan Strait in response to “the erroneous words and deeds of relevant countries on the Taiwan question.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday at a regular news briefing that Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied” about the latest visit by legislators.
“They are sending a seriously wrong signal of supporting the Taiwan independent separatist forces,” he said, adding China had lodged a solemn diplomatic representation with the U.S.
Slotkin is in Taiwan along with Democrats Mark Takano, Colin Allred and Sara Jacobs, and Republican Nancy Mace. Slotkin has been vocal about the effect the global semiconductor shortage has had on the car industry in the southern Michigan region she represents.
The White House and industry representatives have been pressing Congress to pass legislation that would provide $52 billion in funding to help build chip-making facilities in the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the funds would enhance U.S. competitiveness with China.
Slotkin and the other legislators are scheduled to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and visit the Defense Ministry and Veteran Affairs Council during their stop, according to local reports.
Ten lawmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia plan a trip to Taiwan next week to speak at a parliamentary forum. China this week downgraded ties with Lithuania because the Baltic nation let Taipei set up a set up a representative office under the name of Taiwan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei described Beijing’s response as “rude and petty.”
China has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which asserts the island is a de facto sovereign nation awaiting wider international recognition and not part of Chinese territory, as Beijing claims. Still, the Taiwan government has avoided a formal declaration of independence that could trigger a war.
Earlier this week, Chinese authorities fined Taiwanese conglomerate Far Eastern Group as punishment for making political donations to Tsai’s DPP.
Beijing has also threatened to sanction more Taiwanese officials after hitting Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Legislative Yuan President You Si-kun with punishments including bans on travel to the mainland.
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