President Joe Biden dispatched an unofficial delegation to Taiwan Tuesday in a show of support for the island, according to a senior administration official and a State Department spokesperson.
That unofficial delegation is comprised of former Sen. Chris Dodd and former senior State Department officials Richard Armitage and James Steinberg. Their travel comes as China has carried out a number of aggressive shows of force toward the island.
“The selection of these three individuals — senior statesmen who are longtime friends of Taiwan and personally close with President Biden — sends an important signal about the US commitment to Taiwan and its democracy,” the officials said.
They will meet with senior Taiwanese officials at Biden’s request, the officials said. Reuters was first to report on the unofficial delegation.
“This delegation follows a longstanding bipartisan tradition of US administrations sending high-level, unofficial delegations to Taiwan,” the officials said, adding that their travel also comes as the US and Taiwan “mark the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act, for which President Biden voted.”
Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory, although it has been governed separately for more than seven decades. Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that Beijing will never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.
On Monday, China sent 25 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, the largest breach of that space since the island began regularly reporting such activity in September, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
In an interview with NBC on Sunday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said, “What we’ve seen and what is a real concern to us is increasingly aggressive actions by the government in Beijing directed at Taiwan, raising tensions in the straits.”
“And we have a commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, a bipartisan commitment that’s existed for many, many years, to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and to make sure that we’re sustaining peace and security in the Western Pacific. We stand behind those commitments,” he said.
“It would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force,” Blinken said.
Under the “One China” Policy, Washington maintains formal ties with Beijing and informal ones with Taiwan. The US regularly sells military equipment to the island.
On Friday, the State Department “issued new guidelines for US government interaction with Taiwan counterparts to encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.”
“The guidance underscores Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and an important security and economic partner that is also a force for good in the international community,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
The unofficial delegation’s visit comes just weeks after the US Ambassador to Palau, John Hennesey-Niland, became the first sitting US Ambassador travel to Taiwan in an official capacity in more than 40 years.
During the Trump administration a number of administration officials dispatched to Taiwan as part of the administration’s effort to counter China.