US Delegation Sent by Joe Biden Arrives in Taiwan Despite China Opposing Any Official Exchanges Between the 2 Countries

By Jace Dela Cruz

Jan 15, 2024 02:30 AM EST

The unofficial delegation of former US top officials sent by President Joe Biden arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a three-day trip to exchange views on bilateral issues and prospects.

According to Taiwan News, the high-level delegation is led by James Steinberg, a former US deputy secretary of state, and Stephen Hadley, a former US national security adviser.

The visit comes after Taiwan's former Vice President Lai Ching-te was elected president on Saturday, a move that could further strain the US-China relations.

(Photo : STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images))
A participant waves flags from the US and Taiwan during the Lunar New Year Parade in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC, on January 22, 2023. - 2023 is the year of the rabbit in the Chinese horoscope.

China Warns That Any Steps Toward Independence of Taiwan Would Be 'Harshly Punished'

On Sunday, China's foreign ministry condemned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for congratulating Lai on his victory. Beijing was against Lai and said he was a dangerous "separatist," but Taiwanese voters defied all calls, delivering a comfortable win for him," Hindustan Times reported.

China, which considers Taiwan its territory, reiterated its longstanding opposition to any moves toward the island's independence. China's top diplomat Wang Yi warned that any steps toward the independence of Taiwan would be "harshly punished."

"If anyone on the island of Taiwan thinks of going for independence, they will be trying to split apart China's territory, and will certainly be harshly punished by both history and the law," said Wang Yi. 

"This is a dead end. No matter what the results of the election are, they cannot change the basic fact that there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it... Taiwan has never been a country. It wasn't in the past, and it certainly won't be in the future," he added.

The Chinese foreign ministry also said that China has always opposed any official exchanges between the US and Taiwan and the US interfering in Taiwan affairs in "any form and under any pretext."

READ ALSO: Joe Biden to Send High-Level Delegation to Taiwan After Its Election That Might Anger China

Taiwan Welcomes US Support

During his meeting with the US delegates on Monday at his party's headquarters, Lai said freedom and democracy were "the most valuable assets for the Taiwanese people, and the sacred mountains to protect Taiwan."

He noted that they were "core values" shared by Taiwan and the US, which are "the foundation for the long-term stability" in both countries partnership. He told the delegation their visit was "of great significance to Taiwan" and demonstrated the strength of the partnership between the two countries.

The US delegation earlier met Tsai, who was not eligible to run for reelection having served two terms. In a statement released by Tsai's office, Hadley said that "Taiwan's democracy has set a shining example to the world."

"We are honoured to have the opportunity to meet with you today to reaffirm that the American commitment to Taiwan is rock solid, principled and bipartisan and that the United States stands with its friends," the former senior US official added.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden clarified on Saturday that the US does not support Taiwan's independence, Reuters reported

"We do not support independence...," the president said when asked for a reaction to Taiwan's elections. Biden's comments seemed to be an effort to reassure China that the US does not support Taiwan's formal declaration of independence.

The administration has previously upset the Chinese government after releasing comments that appeared to suggest the US would defend the island if attacked.

READ MORE: China Interfered in 2022 US Midterm Elections Because It Believed Joe Biden Wouldn't Retaliate, Intel Report Says 

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