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Taiwan to work with US to face ‘authoritarian expansionism’: President Lai

US Congressional support for Taiwan 'extremely strong', says lawmaker

President Lai Ching-te told visiting US lawmakers Wednesday that Taiwan would work with the United States to counter “authoritarian expansionism”, days after China staged major military drills around the self-ruled island.

Lai has been labelled by Beijing as a “traitor” and “saboteur of peace and stability” since the new president vowed to defend the island’s sovereignty and democracy in his inaugural speech on May 20.

Three days after he was sworn into office, warships and fighter jets encircled Taiwan in drills China said was “punishment” for Lai’s “confession of Taiwan independence” and a test of its ability to seize control of the island.

China claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and says it will never renounce the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.

Speaking Wednesday to the first bipartisan delegation from the US Senate to visit since his inauguration, Lai appealed for continued support from the island’s most powerful ally.

“Facing the challenge of the pandemic, we supported one another. Now facing authoritarian expansionism, we continue to work together,” Lai said.

“Looking ahead, we will continue to do all we can to safeguard democracy so that democratic Taiwan can continue to shine its light upon the world.”

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and head of the delegation, responded by telling Lai “you can count on us to always show up for Taiwan”.

Duckworth also announced she would be joining Republican Senator Dan Sullivan’s “Stand With Taiwan Act”, a bill to impose economic, energy and financial sanctions on China in the event of military invasion or other use of force against Taiwan.

“I hope (I am) the first Democratic senator on that bill and I hope he would be able to introduce that when we get back to Washington,” she said.

Sullivan said Duckworth’s weigh-in was “a huge outcome of our trip to Taiwan already”.

He added that their visit underlined “our rock-solid, principled bipartisan support for Taiwan”.

The delegation, which was also joined by the Democratic Party’s Chris Coons and Laphonza Butler, was the second group of US lawmakers Lai received this week.

On Monday, Lai met with a six-member delegation from the US House of Representatives.

China’s foreign ministry criticised that as a “sneaky visit”, which was “sending a seriously wrong signal to the separatist force of Taiwan independence”.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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