WASHINGTON — As President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping prepare to possibly meet later this month to hammer out a trade deal, a bipartisan group of senators has urged him to publicly show support for the U.S.-Taiwan alliance by sending a Cabinet-level official to Taipei for the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act next month.
The act provides Taiwan with defensive weapons — arms sales that have sparked protests from China — and a commitment “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”
Trump has expressed eagerness for better relations with China and praised authoritarian leader Xi as “great,” and lauded Xi’s moves to become “president for life.” Earlier this year, Trump vowed to craft “the biggest deal ever made” on trade with Xi.
The new letter to Trump states that he should fully implement the Taiwan Travel Act and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, signed into law last year and enshrining “the critical need for high-level visits between Washington, D.C., and Taipei,” and send a Cabinet-level official to Taiwan as “the presence of a senior delegation would send a strong signal of America’s unwavering commitment to and support for one of our strongest partners in the region.”
The letter was led by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and signed by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).
“Taiwan is a key economic and security partner, as well as a critical ally of the United States. In your November 2017 speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit, you spoke of your vision for ‘a peaceful, prosperous, and free Indo-Pacific,'” they wrote. “As a vibrant democracy and free-market economy that respects the rule of law, Taiwan is an important part of achieving this vision and a shining example of everything we want for the region.”
Such a trip is “is important to ensure we are acting in accordance with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, especially given Chinese efforts to change the cross-Strait status quo,” the senators added.
Gardner, Rubio, Cotton and Cornyn, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last month urging her to invite the president of Taiwan to address a joint session of Congress, another move that would surely infuriate China.
Lee Ching-yu, whose Taiwan activist husband Lee Ming-che is imprisoned by China, was the State of the Union guest of Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who leads the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Rubio is the Senate leader of the panel.
“Extending an invitation for President Tsai to address a joint session of Congress in this historic year for U.S.-Taiwan relations would send a powerful message that the United States and the American people will always stand with the oppressed, and never the oppressor,” the GOP senators wrote.