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US lawmaker tells Taiwan weapons are coming, China drills show deterrence need
US lawmaker tells Taiwan weapons are coming, China drills show deterrence need
Asia
US lawmaker tells Taiwan weapons are coming, China drills show deterrence need
by DZRH News27 May 2024
FILE PHOTO: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) speaks alongside House Republican impeachment managers and other Senate Republicans during a press conference on the impeachment of U.S. Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 16, 2024. REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/File Photo

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A senior U.S. lawmaker visiting Taipei said on Monday that weapons Taiwan had ordered are finally on their way, and that China's "intimidating" war games last week underscored the need to boost the island's deterrence abilities.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan's government rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims.

Taiwan has for the last two years complained of delays to deliveries of U.S. weapons, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers supply Ukraine to support its defence against Russia.

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Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who promised those weapons would be delivered when he visited Taiwan last year, said the Chinese military's "armada" last week had sent a very strong message to the United States.

"We are moving forward on those weapons systems. I'd like to see it faster, but they are forthcoming," McCaul told reporters after meeting Taiwan President Lai Ching-te as head of a bipartisan delegation of five other U.S. lawmakers.

The other members of the delegation were Representatives Young Kim of California, Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Andy Barr of Kentucky, all Republicans; and Democrats Jimmy Panetta of California and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania.

Taiwan needs to have sufficient weapons to show Chinese President Xi Jinping that the risk outweighs the rewards of invading the island, he added.

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"President Lai and I, as always, had a very sobering and yet very direct conversation about the threat that this island faces from its neighbour to the north, and it's a real one," McCaul said. "Without deterrence, Chairman Xi has bold and aggressive ambitions."

The focus for Taiwan should be on maritime weapons like Harpoon anti-ship missiles, to stymie an invasion, he added.

McCaul also offered reassurance that no matter who won the U.S. presidential election in November, U.S. support for Taiwan would remain.

Lai, meeting McCaul earlier in the presidential office, said he would "enhance national defence capabilities, and show the world the determination of the Taiwanese people to defend their homeland".

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China's Foreign Ministry said McCaul and the other lawmakers had gone to Taiwan over Beijing's strong objections, and that it had lodged "stern representations".

Last year, Beijing placed sanctions on McCaul after his visit to Taiwan and meeting with then-President Tsai Ing-wen.

China has increased its pressure against Taiwan over the past four years, including staging almost daily military activities near the island.

On Monday morning in its daily update on China's movements in the previous 24 hours, Taiwan's defence ministry said it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft and 11 ships operating nearby.

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Later Monday, China announced military exercises to the west of Nanji island, off China's Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province and to the north of Taiwan.

Taiwanese forces evacuated Nanji and the surrounding islands in 1955 under sustained Chinese attack.

Taiwan still controls Kinmen and Matsu islands further down the Chinese coast.

The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists, who set up the People's Republic of China.

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(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher, and Liz Lee in Beijing; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Sonali Paul and Gerry Doyle)

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