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Former defense officials from the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama visited Taiwan. The delegation arrived amid fears Russia’s Ukraine invasion could spark China’s geopolitical ambitions for the island.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen was greeted at Taipei’s airport by Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu
A delegation of former US defense chiefs arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, amid protests from China about the nature of the visit. The delegation was sent by US President Joe Biden.
The Taiwanese government welcomed it, saying the trip would allow “an in-depth exchange of views on Taiwan-US cooperation issues in various fields.”
It all comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited fears over China’s geopolitical ambitions regarding Taiwan.
Beijing has not condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine and its criticism of the heavy sanctions that have been leveled against Moscow is widely seen as a sign of commitment to the two countries’ mutual defiance of Washington and the West.
Biden’s delegation follows the trend of his predecessors, who have routinely maintained contacts between Taiwan and both serving and retired administration officials.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen leads the five-person delegation, which will meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other top officials over two days. The members were greeted at Taipei’s Songshan Airport by Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu.
Mullen is a retired Navy admiral who served as the top US military officer under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He is joined by Meghan O’Sullivan, a former deputy national security adviser under Bush, and Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense under Obama.
Mike Green and Evan Medeiros, both former National Security Council senior directors for Asia, also flew to Taiwan. A US official told Reuters that the group’s visit was intended to “demonstrate our continued robust support for Taiwan.”
China currently claims the democratically governed island as part of its own territory and has vowed to bring it under Chinese control. Beijing has always protested US contacts with Taiwan’s government and did so again on Tuesday.
“The will of the Chinese people to defend our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is immovable. Whoever [the] United States sends to show support for Taiwan is bound to fail,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said of the visit.
Wang dismissed the visit, saying it was “futile for the US to send anyone to demonstrate its so-called support for Taiwan,”
China sees Taiwan as the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the US. Wang urged Washington to “stop all forms of official exchange with Taiwan, and handle Taiwan-related issues with caution so as to avoid further serious damage to the overall situation of China-US relations.”
jcg/rc (AP, Reuters)