US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan for second time this month

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US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan for second time this month

A group of US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan Thursday, the second such delegation this month, and a sign of American support just days after President Joe Biden invited Taipei to a democracy summit.

International sympathy for Taiwan is growing, especially among western nations, as China's authoritarian leader Xi Jinping takes an increasingly bellicose approach to the island.

China claims Taiwan as its territory, to be retaken one day by force if necessary, and has stepped up efforts to diplomatically isolate it.

When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy telling me to call off the trip, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, one of the delegates, wrote on Twitter.

Nancy Mace, the only Republican in the group, tweeted her arrival with a selfie and words Just touched down in the Republic of Taiwan. This choice of wording is significant, because Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China, but those who favor independence often use the phrase Republic of Taiwan instead.

Beijing baulks at any use of the word Taiwan or any references to the island as a country or diplomatic gestures that might lend a sense of international legitimacy to the island.

Taiwan is only recognized by 15 other nations, but it maintains a de facto diplomatic relationship with multiple countries.

It comes days after China downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania because Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy.

The US delegation touched down overnight after Thanksgiving with US troops in South Korea.

It is headed by Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. It includes Colin Allred and Sara Jacobs, as well as Slotkin and Mace.

Xavier Chang, a spokesman for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, said the visit showed the firm Taiwan-US friendship and bipartisan support for deepening ties in Congress.

The American Institute in Taiwan, Washington's embassy, said the two-day visit would involve US-Taiwan relations, regional security, and other significant issues of mutual interest. Support for Taipei and its 23 million inhabitants is a rare issue on which there is cross-party consensus.

Washington has remained a key ally and its biggest arms supplier despite the fact that it switched to Beijing in 1979.

President Tsai has tried to assert the island's identity, provoking China's anger since her election in 2016.

In the past few years, Beijing has ramped up military activities near Taiwan, with a record number of planes entering the island's air defence identification zone in early October.