A group of former senior United States defense and security officials sent by President Joe Biden arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday.
The visit has been denounced by China and is happening in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The visit is led by Mike Mullen, a former top U.S. military officer. It comes at a time when Taiwan has raised its alert level. Taiwan is worried China could move against it as the West is distracted with the events in Eastern Europe.
Mullen is a retired Navy commander who served as the top U.S. military officer under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He is joined by Meghan O'Sullivan, a former deputy national security adviser under Bush, and Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense under Obama. Two former National Security Council senior directors for Asia are also part of the group.
Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu met the group when it arrived in Taipei.
Tsai Ing-wen is the president of Taiwan. Her office told Reuters the visit would permit “an in-depth exchange of views on Taiwan-U.S. cooperation issues in various fields.”
Taiwan hopes the sides will “continue to deepen the steady development of Taiwan-U.S. relations, continue to jointly maintain regional peace and stability, and continue to jointly contribute to global peace and prosperity,” it said in a statement.
The American group will meet Tsai on Wednesday, the same day former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive. Pompeo is coming separately as a private citizen.
China describes Taiwan as the most important issue in its ties with the United States. China is angered by any high-level meetings between the two.
"The will of the Chinese people to defend our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity is immovable. Whoever United States sends to show support for Taiwan is bound to fail," said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drawn attention to China’s threat to use force to take over democratic Taiwan. China claims the island as its own territory.
The two situations are very different, however. Taiwan lies 160 kilometers across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China. It also enjoys strong support from the U.S., which is legally required to make sure the island can defend itself.
China has not denounced Russia’s war against Ukraine. It has also criticized the use of sanctions against Russia. The two countries share a feeling of resistance towards the U.S. and Western Europe.
China has been sending military airplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone almost every day. And on Saturday, China’s Defense Ministry protested the passage of an American warship through the Taiwan Strait.
The strait is in international waters. The U.S. Navy said the ship’s passage “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
China often protests U.S. contacts with Taiwan’s government. It announced in November that its military conducted air and naval activities in the direction of the Taiwan Strait. This came after five U.S. lawmakers met with Tsai on an unannounced one-day visit.
Biden, like past presidents, is making more contacts with Taiwan. His administration is also selling it military equipment.
I'm Jill Robbins.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English from reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
distract — v. to cause to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else instead
region — n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way
stability — n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change
prosperity — n. the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money
sovereignty— n. country's independent authority and the right to govern itself
integrity— n. the quality of being honest and fair
sanction — n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.
commitment – n. a promise to do or give something