US congressional delegation arrives in Taiwan days after China military drills

26 May 2024, 11:22 | Updated: 26 May 2024, 13:14

A US congressional delegation has touched down in Taiwan days after China launched military drills around the self-governed island.

This week, Beijing carried out two days of war games, encircling Taiwan with warships and fighter jets and describing it as "punishment" for "separatist acts", following the inauguration of Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te.

It also vowed to ramp up countermeasures until "complete reunification" was achieved.

The arrival of an American delegation from Congress comes at a tense time in relations between China and Taiwan and will likely be met with condemnation from Beijing.

This week, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned America to "seriously abide by the one-China principle" and "not arrange for any visit by members of the Congress to Taiwan".

He added there would be "consequences" if it failed to follow that directive.

The bi-partisan US delegation is being led by Michael McCaul of Texas, the chair of the House foreign affairs committee.

The outspoken Republican has had plenty of tough talk on China in the past. When he visited Taiwan last year, he compared Xi Jinping to Adolf Hitler.

This recent visit is the latest in a series of high-profile Taiwan-focused meetings by American politicians, with the most highly controversial being former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to the island in August 2022.

Taiwan's government has embraced the visits as a valuable show of solidarity. But it is also a complicated dynamic to navigate, with China consistently threatening retaliation for the American displays of support.

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It is unclear how strident the US politicians will be this time - and their outreach will be a test for the new Taiwanese president.

China has branded Taiwan's new president Mr Lai a "dangerous separatist" who will bring "war and decline" to the island.

It was incensed by his inauguration speech, in which he hailed a "glorious" era for Taiwan's democracy.

But, today, President Lai said he was still ready to work with China and wanted the two to "jointly shoulder the important responsibility of regional stability".

That may be an attempt to turn the temperature down with Beijing. But many fear America inserting itself again with a visit, could spark a strong reaction from Beijing.

With the last drills dubbed 2024-A, many are anticipating "B" may not be far away.