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28 Feb, 2022 21:11

US sends delegation to Taiwan amid ‘invasion’ fears

The trip by former Pentagon and national security figures is a show of support for the island claimed by Beijing
US sends delegation to Taiwan amid ‘invasion’ fears

US President Joe Biden on Monday sent a group of former military and national security figures to Taiwan, where they will meet with officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen. The trip comes amid concerns in the US that Beijing may be enticed to invade the island having observed the US’ unwillingness to commit troops to Ukraine.

The visit was initially reported by Reuters and confirmed shortly afterwards by Taiwanese diplomats. Taiwan’s embassy in the US said the trip is “a sign that relations between Taipei and Washington remain ‘rock-solid’!”

Led by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, the delegation includes Meghan O'Sullivan, a former deputy national security advisor in George W. Bush’s administration, and Michele Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense under Barack Obama. Former National Security Council officials Mike Green and Evan Medeiros also traveled with the group.

The team is expected to arrive in Taipei on Tuesday, and meet with President Tsai on Wednesday.

A similar trip took place under Biden’s direction last April, when a group of former lawmakers and diplomats traveled to Taiwan to assure Taipei that Washington would support the island nation’s defense. While the government in Beijing insists that Taiwan belongs to China, the US has unofficially supported Taiwanese independence, supplying weapons to Taipei even while recognizing China’s claim to the island.

The US is not party to any binding security treaties with Taiwan, and has never pledged to defend the island with force. This non-committal position, coupled with the US’ refusal to commit troops to Ukraine in response to Russia’s military offensive there last week, has led to speculation in the US media that Beijing may be considering “an invasion.”

In an interview last week, former President Donald Trump claimed that China would “absolutely” move on Taiwan during Biden’s presidency.

While there are no signs that such a move is in the works, Taiwan has accused the Chinese military of probing its air defense zone with jets last week. 

Speaking to Reuters, an unnamed US official declined to link the delegation’s trip with any increased threat, saying that it instead represented Biden’s “broader commitment to Taiwan.”