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U.S. lawmakers visit Taiwan after Pelosi trip angers China

U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts appears with Taiwanese Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Tah-ray Yui after arriving at Taoyuan International Airport on Sunday. (Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AFP/Getty Images)

A delegation of American lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip angered China and raised fears of a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

Five members of Congress, led by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), are expected to meet with meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior leaders to discuss U.S.-Taiwan relations, regional security issues, trade and climate change, according to the American Institute in Taiwan.

The institute said in a statement that the lawmakers would be in Taiwan on Sunday and Monday as part of a larger trip to Asia.

The delegation will also meet with members of the private sector “to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic cooperation, including investments in semiconductors,” a spokesperson for Markey said in a statement.

Pelosi’s visit in early August led to heightened tensions in U.S.-China relations. The Chinese conducted military exercises off Taiwan, including firing missiles that touched down in surrounding waters. The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping also cut off talks with the United States on military issues and climate change, a decision that foreign policy experts feared could imperil progress at a global climate summit in November.

For Beijing, Pelosi’s high-level meetings in Taiwan were an affront. China claims the democratically governed island as its own territory. During her trip, the speaker offered assurances of American support, saying that one of the purposes of the trip was “to show the world the success of the people of Taiwan, the courage to change their own country, to become more democratic.”

As of Sunday afternoon, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not issued any reaction to the latest delegation visit.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted a photo of the delegation meeting with the vice-minister of foreign affairs, Alexander Tah-ray Yui, and celebrated the lawmakers’ visit as a sign of friendly relations between Taipei and the United States.

“As China is continuing to escalate tensions in the region, the US Congress has again organized a heavyweight delegation to visit Taiwan, showing a friendship that is not afraid of China’s threats and intimidation, and highlighting the US’ strong support towards Taiwan,” the Taiwanese ministry said in a statement.

The congressional delegation visiting the island this week includes Democratic House members John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California and Don Beyer from Virginia. It also includes Republican Del. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen of American Samoa, according to the spokesperson for Markey.

State-run nationalist tabloid Global Times was among the first Chinese media outlets to report on the delegation’s visit.

Citing “Chinese experts,” the article said People’s Liberation Army military drills around Taiwan have sent a “loud and clear-cut warning signal.” Yet some U.S. politicians are “‘playing with fire’ to serve their own political interests,” the article continued.

“The international community can see clearly who is the troublemaker that always ignores warnings and keeps worsening regional peace with endless provocations,” Global Times wrote.

The outlet also quoted Zhang Tengjun — deputy director of the Asia-Pacific studies department at the China Institute of International Studies — who said the delegation arrived in a “sneaky and stealthy manner” that “exposed their diffidence in triggering anger from the Chinese mainland.”