Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation in Taiwan, a visit that comes amid soaring tensions between the US and China.
Khanna and Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), and Jonathan Jackson (D-IL) arrived in Taiwan on Sunday. According to The Associated Press, the lawmakers will be in Taiwan for five days, longer than most congressional visits to the island.
China views US government officials visiting Taiwan as an affront to the one-China policy and often reacts to such trips with military drills around the island. After former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) traveled to Taiwan last August, China launched its largest-ever military drills around the island and has kept up the military pressure since.
On Friday, media reports said the Pentagon’s top China official arrived in Taiwan, although the US government didn’t officially acknowledge the trip. Around the same time, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported an uptick in Chinese military flights in the region, including 15 planes that crossed the median line, an unofficial barrier that separates the Taiwan Strait.
Before Pelosi visited Taiwan, China rarely crossed the median line, but now it’s a common occurrence. Khanna supported Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, saying at the time that “we’re not going to let the Chinese Communist Party dictate where the Speaker of the House should go.”
Khanna is insisting his visit to Taiwan is focused on the semiconductor industry and is not a provocation. He said in a statement that he would affirm the one-China policy. But Khanna is a member of a new China panel in the House that was formed after Republicans took the majority, and other members recognize that congressional delegations to Taiwan will anger Beijing.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), another member of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, told Nikkei Asia last week that the panel’s members plan to visit Taiwan knowing that it will “infuriate” China.
“We know that will infuriate the Chinese,” Wittman said. “But I think it’s incredibly important for us to do that, because you have to send the signal that we’re strongly on the side of Taiwan.” Republican leadership is expected to also eventually visit Taiwan, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
On Monday, Khanna’s delegation held talks with the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The delegation is expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other business people on the island.