A US Congressional delegation recently visited Taiwan at the end of February to discuss security ties between the two countries. The group met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who thanked them for their strong support of US-Taiwan relations. US Representative Trent Kelly of Mississippi, Senator Daniel Sullivan of Alaska, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Senator Michael Rounds of South Dakota, and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa were among those in the 19-member delegation who made the trip. The delegation pledged to continue its support of US arms sales to Taiwan, which have been ongoing for decades. The US most recently sold $1.4 billion worth of missiles and other arms to Taiwan in June 2017.
After meeting with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lee, Senator Inhofe remarked that Taiwan has the full cooperation of the United States, and highlighted the two countries’ shared interests and values that have formed the basis of the US-Taiwan partnership. He also reaffirmed the US commitment to Taiwan and the Asia Pacific. Senator Sullivan further commented, “America is an Asia-Pacific country. We are an Asia-Pacific power. We have been for over 200 years and we will be here for another 200 years.” Such sentiments mirror the new US National Security Strategy, which emphasizes a strong Asia-Pacific policy and dedication to the region.
These talks build on the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was in part drafted by Senator Inhofe and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, co-chairmen of the Senate Taiwan Caucus. The act permits the US to consider re-establishing "regular ports of call by the US Navy at Kaohsiung or any other suitable ports in Taiwan" and enables the US Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwanese vessels. Such exchanges between US and Taiwanese officials will also likely become more common in the near future. Congress recently passed a new Taiwan Travel Act that will allow US government officials at all levels to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts in either the United States or Taiwan, exchanges that were previously prohibited.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.