A delegation including Indiana’s governor arrived in Taiwan on Sunday to start trade talks with Taipei amid increased U.S. political tensions with China, which launched a barrage of military drills near the island in response to visits this month by American government officials.
The delegation, including Gov. Eric J. Holcomb; Bradley B. Chambers, Indiana’s secretary of commerce; and others, may even visit South Korea later this week. The officials are set to satisfy with business and academic leaders in Taiwan and South Korea, and can deal with “strengthening Indiana’s economic and academic partnerships” with each places, Mr. Holcomb said in a news release.
“I’m committed to constructing an economy of the long run with these global partners who’re helping propel Indiana forward by creating tomorrow’s businesses, today,” the governor’s statement said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Twitter, “We’re excited to renew links with good friends and deepen our partnership with the good U.S. state of Indiana.”
The visit comes after the Biden administration announced last week that it could begin official trade negotiations with Taiwan this fall. The move was geared toward strengthening ties with the self-governing island, which the US considers a very important market. Nevertheless it also heightened political tensions with China, which has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan.
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Sunday’s visit comes on the heels of a high-profile trip this month by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, essentially the most senior member of the U.S. government to go to the island in 25 years; and one other by a bipartisan group of 5 U.S. lawmakers, led by Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts. Taiwanese officials have welcomed the visits as a show of solidarity amid harsh denunciations by Beijing.
On Sunday, Douglas Hsu, a top official in Taiwan’s foreign ministry, welcomed Mr. Holcomb after he landed in Taiwan. The foreign ministry said in a press release that it believed “the visit will help proceed to reinforce and strengthen bilateral relations and deepen the mutually helpful partnership between Taiwan and the US.”
The ministry said that Mr. Holcomb and his delegation would meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, the foreign minister and representatives of the island’s semiconductor industries during a four-day visit.
Beijing didn’t immediately respond on Sunday to the presence of the brand new U.S. delegation. But China escalated its military drills in waters near Taiwan in response to the visits by Ms. Pelosi and other government officials this month, sending multiple fighter jets and vessels across the island.
On Sunday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had detected 12 aircraft and five vessels from China’s People’s Liberation Army near its territory.
The Biden administration has said that it could proceed to conduct its own military operations in the world despite pressure from Beijing.
A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the Indiana governor’s trip, as an alternative referring reporters to comments this month by Ned Price, the department’s press secretary, after the visits by Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Markey and other members of Congress. Mr. Price called the delegations “peaceful visits by members of Congress who’re traveling there to point out their support for the people on Taiwan.”
He has routinely criticized China’s military maneuvers in response to such trips as “totally unnecessary and an absolute overreaction.”
Mr. Holcomb’s delegation includes staff from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and representatives from Indiana’s Purdue University, which announced in June that it could partner with MediaTek, a Taiwanese semiconductor company, to maneuver among the company’s operations to Indiana. The delegation will head to South Korea on Thursday
Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.