This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Senator Marsha Blackburn became the latest senior U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in August despite protests and warnings from Beijing.
When Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made a stopover in Taipei earlier this month, China threatened the “strongest countermeasures” and announced a major military exercise around the island.
China considers Taiwan one of its provinces that must be reunited with the mainland and categorically rejects “external interference” in its internal matters.
Pelosi was followed by a flurry of visitors including Democratic Senator Ed Markey, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and now Marsha Blackburn.
New Axis of Evil
Blackburn touched down at Songshan Airport in central Taipei on Thursday evening and her first message on Twitter was: “I just landed in Taiwan to send a message to Beijing — we will not be bullied.”
“It’s time we focus on rewarding Taiwan’s commitment to democratic values and ensure they have the necessary resources to combat Communist China and the New Axis of Evil,” Blackburn said afterwards.
“Xi Jinping doesn’t scare me,” the 70-year-old Republican Senator said.
“Axis of Evil” was a catchphrase first used by former U.S. President George W. Bush to refer to Iran, Iraq and North Korea. The term was used to describe states that allegedly sponsored terrorism and harbored weapons of mass destruction.
China has yet to respond to the news but Beijing has so far been condemning Washington for “playing the Taiwan card against China.”
The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece China Daily on Friday ran an opinion column by Tang Yonghong who warned that “U.S. moves on Taiwan will backfire.”
“The United States, with the help of the Taiwan authorities, is trying to hollow out the One-China principle,” wrote Tang, who is deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University.
Such visits by U.S. politicians are part of the strategy to “interfere in China’s internal affairs, in order to check China’s rise,” the analyst wrote.
According to Tang, “the status quo across the Straits has been broken” so the Chinese leadership is likely to “accelerate efforts to remove the stumbling blocks” to national reunification. In other words, a plan to take over Taiwan may be brought forward.
‘U.S.’s strongest partner’
“Taiwan is our strongest partner in the Indo-Pacific Region,” Blackburn, who sits on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, said in a press release.
“Regular high-level visits to Taipei are long-standing U.S. policy,” she said, adding that she “will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island.”
China should not be allowed to “set the foreign policy” for the U.S., she said in separate public remarks.
During her three-day stay in Taiwan Blackburn met with President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and is scheduled to hold talks with the Secretary-General of the National Security Council Wellington Koo, according to the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry.
Prior to Taiwan, the senator from Tennessee visited Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea where she discussed with Pacific Islands’ leaders “the issue of great power competition.”
Regional leaders have long been worried about U.S.-China rivalry that may lead to adverse consequences including the risk of war.
In March, China and the Solomon Islands signed an agreement on security cooperation that sparked concerns about China’s rising influence in the Pacific region.
A number of U.S. delegations have since traveled to Pacific Island countries to promote the U.S.-led vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”