Michael McCaul leads a delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan after recent threats from China

This is the first visit by U.S. representatives since recently elected Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te took power.

Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is heading a bipartisan American delegation that arrived on the island of Taiwan Sunday to meet with the country's new government. The visit by the Republican and a team of lawmakers is the first that American representatives have made to the island since new President Lai Ching-te took power.

The visit from the U.S. Congress members is a new show of support from the United States to the island of Taiwan, of which China claims sovereignty. This Chinese threat was one of the strong points that the leaders highlighted during the first stage of the meeting. McCaul, a Republican, indicated during his appearances with Ching-te that he and his colleagues would give their "unwavering support to this beautiful island."

McCaul was joined by Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.); Indo-Pacific Subcommittee Chair Young Kim (R-Calif.); Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.); Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.).

Support for Taiwan

The visit occurs just days after China began new military drills around the island of Taiwan. It was one more step in the escalation of tension between the communist and Taiwanese governments. The military exercises full of rhetoric and propaganda and took place just after Lai Ching-te took power. The new Taiwanese president, from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), made his pro-independence and sovereigntist position clear during his introductory speech last Monday. These statements prompted a response from Beijing.

In statements reported by AFP, McCaul condemned China's "threatening military exercises," saying they showed that Beijing "is not interested in taking Taiwan by peaceful means." Lai Ching-te thanked the delegation for its support, hoping that Congress "will continue to help Taiwan strengthen its self-defense capabilities."

Last month, Congress approved an international military aid package that included Taiwan as a recipient of U.S. weapons. Regarding this shipment of aid, McCaul assured that "we are making progress on these weapons systems. I would like to see them faster, but they are on the way."

China condemns the visit

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered statements this Monday in which it "firmly opposes" the visit by the members of Congress.

It urged U.S. lawmakers to "stop playing the Taiwan card, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, stop supporting and condoning Taiwan independence separatist forces, and stop undermining Sino-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a press conference on Monday.

Limited recognition of Taiwan

It is not the first visit by members of Congress to the island of Taiwan. The most recent was in February, when a bipartisan delegation traveled to the island as part of a tour of several Pacific island nations. It was less eventful than Nancy Pelosi's visit in 2022 when she was still speaker of the House of Representatives. This trip provoked a harsh response from China, as Pelosi held the third most important position in the administration in Washington.

Pelosi's visit was the highest-ranking official to go to the island since President Eisenhower's visit in 1960. He is the only U.S. president to visit Taiwan to date. Very few nations formally recognize Taiwan. The United States maintains non-diplomatic relations with the island, although close.