The United States is reportedly considering sending a congressional delegation to Taiwan to “infuriate” China after Washington alleged that a Chinese spy balloon flew over the country before it was shot down last week by the American military.
US Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), who sits on the US House of Representatives Select Committee on China, told the Nikkei, the Tokyo-based newspaper, on Sunday that some of the panel’s members were exploring the possibility of visiting the self-ruled island in a show of support.
Wittman agreed that such a trip would “infuriate the Chinese.”
“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,” he explained.
The move is likely to draw China’s anger, which has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei. Under the “one China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty, meaning they would not establish direct diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Taipei.
Chinese Taipei’s secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen has independence aspirations and views the island as a sovereign state, rejecting the “one China” principle. The US, though professing adherence to the principle, has long courted Taipei and sells weapons to the self-governed island in an attempted affront to Beijing.
The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party was established just a month ago after the Republicans took over the House following the November 8 midterm elections. The committee seeks to respond to what the US regards as mounting challenges from Beijing in various fields, including national security, trade, and the economy.
Wittman told Nikkei that the delegation could hold a field hearing in Taiwan should the trip take place.
US media reported in January that new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy may visit the island as early as this spring.
If McCarthy does go on to travel to Taipei, it would be the second trip to the self-ruled island by a US House speaker in less than a year, sparking almost back-to-back escalation with China, which has sovereignty over Taipei.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August last year, bypassing Beijing diplomatically and establishing direct contact with Taipei to plan the trip.
That angered China, which issued statements critical of Pelosi and the US and staged large military exercises in waters near the island to assert its sovereignty.
China’s Foreign Ministry warned the US against such steps, while urging “certain individuals in the US to earnestly abide by the One China principle.”
In response, McCarthy said, “I don’t think China can tell me where I can go, at any time, at any place.”
Tensions in the Taiwan Strait reached levels not seen in three decades with live-fire drills in several areas around the island.
A US fighter aircraft last shot down the so-called surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, invoking strong criticism from Beijing. President Joe Biden congratulated US fighter pilots for taking down the balloon.
Beijing blasted the Pentagon’s decision to shoot down the balloon spotted flying over North America, accusing the United States of “clearly overreacting and seriously violating international practice”.