The chairman of the House Select Committee on China said Saturday the US must take seriously the threat posed to Taiwan, as Beijing launched military drills around the island in the aftermath of the Taiwanese president’s meetings with American lawmakers.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who attended the meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen in California last week, told The Associated Press that he plans to lead his committee in working to shore up the island government’s defenses, encouraging Congress to expedite military aid to Taiwan.
“I think it all just points to what is obvious,” Gallagher told the AP, arguing that Chinese President Xi Jinping is intent on reunifying Taiwan with the mainland.
“We need to be moving heaven and earth to enhance our deterrence and denial posture so that Xi Jinping concludes that he just can’t do it,” Gallagher said.
China conducted drills with warships and dozens of fighter jets around Taiwan on Saturday, the Taiwanese government said, in what was viewed as retaliation for the meeting between the U.S. lawmakers and the president of the self-ruled island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Tsai in a bipartisan session at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, with more than a dozen members of the US House for what was the most sensitive stop during her transit through the US.
China’s response to Tsai’s transit through the US has not, so far, been as intense as its reaction last year after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.
While both McCarthy and Tsai spoke in measured remarks after the meeting about maintaining the status quo between their countries, which have no formal diplomatic ties, the daylong meeting enraged China.
The Chinese military announced the start of three-day “combat readiness patrols” as a warning to Taiwanese who want to make the island’s de facto independence permanent.
Taiwan split with China in 1949 after a civil war, and the United States broke off official ties with Taiwan in 1979 while formally establishing diplomatic relations with the Beijing government.
The U.S. acknowledges a “one China” policy in which Beijing lays claim to Taiwan, but it does not endorse China’s claim to the island and remains Taiwan’s key provider of military and defense assistance.