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US lawmakers discuss bringing Starlink into Taiwan with Tsai

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, speaks to the media before a closed session of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees in October 2019 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS)

Two U.S. lawmakers said they discussed the possibility of bringing Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system into Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-wen, to help Taipei’s deterrence against China.

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Arkansas Rep. French Hill, among a congressional delegation visiting Taipei, said it was one of the “constructive takeaways” in their talks with Tsai on Saturday.

Taiwan’s presidential office said it had no comment on Starlink. It issued a statement saying McCaul and his delegation met with Taiwanese leaders from various industries including semiconductors and aerospace technology.

The Republicans didn’t say if they had discussed the idea with Musk or Starlink, the fleet operated and launched by the billionaire’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which has more than 3,000 satellites in orbit.

Last year, Musk angered Taipei by proposing his own solution for the tensions between China and Taiwan — handing some control to Beijing. Taiwan is governed independently, but China considers the island part of its territory. He also said then that Beijing has sought assurances that he won’t offer Starlink’s internet service in China.

“Communist China is very good at what we call intelligence surveillance reconnaissance,” McCaul told reporters Saturday. “They have great eyes on — they can see everything in the Pacific. In some cases, better than we can in this area. Taiwan has none of that.”

China announced it will conduct military drills “around” Taiwan for three days from Saturday, following Tsai’s return from visits to the U.S.

Taiwan would benefit from Starlink’s satellites because of vulnerabilities in its undersea cables, Hill said, adding the island would have to make a national security exception for the company to operate.


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