United States Senator Ed Markey praised Taiwan on Monday during a brief visit for "showing restraint" in response to China's week-long live-fire drills in waters around Taiwan earlier this month in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit.
"At this moment of uncertainty, we must do everything we can to maintain peace and stability for Taiwan," Markey said in a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (???) at the Presidential Office on Monday morning.
"We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to prevent an unnecessary conflict, and Taiwan has demonstrated incredible restraint and discretion during challenging times," he said.
Tsai, meanwhile, thanked the U.S. delegation for traveling to Taiwan "at a special critical time to express your friendship toward the country."
She noted that the 76-year-old Markey voted for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979 when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The TRA serves as the cornerstone of the unofficial relations between Taipei and Washington after the two sides cut diplomatic ties in 1979.
Markey remains one of the few members of congress currently still in office who participated in that vote.
After meeting with Tsai, Markey and House members John Garamendi (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA) and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), had lunch with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???) and met with Taiwanese lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (???), who attended the meeting with lawmakers, the two sides did not touch on potential U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Other lawmakers who participated the meeting said the U.S. delegation asked Taiwanese lawmakers whether Washington should stick to its decades-long policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan.
Since formally recognizing Beijing, Washington has intentionally maintained a stance characterized as "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would come to Taiwan's defense in the event of an attack by China.
The policy was intended to deter Beijing from attempting an invasion, without the U.S. committing itself to getting directly involved in a cross-Taiwan Strait skirmish.
In recent years, however, some experts and former U.S. officials, including former State Secretary Mike Pompeo and ex-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have argued that Washington should move away from strategic ambiguity to clarity to more effectively deter a potential Chinese invasion.
The U.S. delegation, which arrived in Taiwan at around 7 p.m. Sunday, left from Songshan Airport in a U.S. C-40 Clipper military transport plane at around 4 p.m. Monday, concluding a relatively low-key 21-hour-visit.
None of their itineraries were open to the press and the meeting with Tsai in the Presidential Office was conducted behind close doors with no media access.
Such meetings are usually live-streamed online. The Presidential Office did not offer an explanation for the decision, but did release an edited video clip of the meeting to the press after Markey left Taiwan.
Markey's trip came less than two weeks after Pelosi concluded a 19-hour visit to Taiwan on Aug. 3, the first visit by a sitting U.S. House speaker since 1997.
In response to that trip, Beijing launched an unprecedented set of live-fire military drills in six maritime zones encircling Taiwan from Aug. 4. to Aug. 7. PLA later extended the scheduled four-day drill, which concluded on Aug. 10 in a smaller scale.
China's military on Monday said it carried out more exercises near Taiwan in response to the visit of Markey's delegation, which Beijing described as an infringement of its sovereignty.
PLA's Eastern Theatre Command said it had organized multi-service joint combat readiness patrols and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan on Monday.
The exercises were "a stern deterrent to the United States and Taiwan continuing to play political tricks and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," it said.
According to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, China deployed 30 warplanes and five warships into areas around Taiwan as of 5 p.m. Monday, with 15 of the 30 aircraft crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
The median line was previously treated as an unofficial border on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, for which reason breaching it represents a more aggressive posture than Beijing's frequent sorties into Taiwan's air defense identification zone over the past two years.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel