Lindsey Graham, Bob Menendez Among Bipartisan Lawmakers Heading to Taiwan

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan for a high-profile visit on Thursday, a local television station reports.

The congressional delegation will comprise six members of Congress, said Taiwan's SET News. Others include North Carolina's Richard Burr, Nebraska's Ben Sasse and Ohio's Rob Portman—all Senate Republicans—and Ronny Jackson, the GOP representative for Texas.

New Jersey Democrat Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while South Carolina Republican Graham is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The "CODEL" will reportedly land in Taipei on Thursday evening for the brief visit. The group is scheduled to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and others in a show of solidarity with Taiwan, the report said.

Bob Menendez, Lindsey Graham Lead Taiwan CODEL
This combination of photographs shows Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), left, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The American lawmakers were reported to be leading a six-member congressional delegation, or CODEL, to Taiwan on April 14, 2022. Drew Angerer/Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Reached by Newsweek, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry was typically low-key. A spokesperson said it didn't have any information to share at this time, but that the government "has always welcomed members of the U.S. Congress to visit Taiwan."

News of the visit comes just days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was scheduled to visit Japan, a trip that reportedly included a stop in Taiwan. However, the itinerary was postponed after she returned a positive COVID test, her office said.

The California Democrat would've been the first sitting speaker to visit Taipei in a quarter century, after Republican Newt Gingrich called on Taiwan's late President Lee Teng-hui in 1997. The Chinese government in Beijing, which has asserted a historic claim to the island since 1949, warned Taiwan-friendly Pelosi to cancel her travel plans.

Menendez was last in Taiwan in 2013. Graham, meanwhile, visited in 2016 as part of a CODEL led by the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The regular trips by American lawmakers in part represent the bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill about the importance of U.S.-Taiwan ties, a cultural, economic and security partnership that has taken on new significance amid China's rise in Asia, and as Beijing's Taiwan policy takes a more belligerent turn.

In February, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Joe Biden dispatched a delegation of former U.S. officials to Taipei to reassure the Taiwanese public of American commitments in the region. The visit, although unofficial, drew complaints from the Chinese Foreign Ministry nonetheless.

According to unconfirmed local reports, the latest CODEL is also expected to meet Tsai's national security team, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng. The group will stay for one night and depart on Friday afternoon, the reports said.

Taiwan is currently experiencing an uptick in COVID infections that has so far resulted in a small number of severe cases and deaths. Taiwan's president was among those caught up in one cluster after having come in contact with an individual who later tested positive. She tested negative throughout an isolation period at her official residence, which ended today.

The offices of Sen. Menendez and Graham, and China's Foreign Ministry, didn't return Newsweek's request for comment before publication.

Update 4/14/22, 8:10 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated to include further information on Nancy Pelosi's proposed visit to Taiwan and background details on trips to Taiwan by American lawmakers.