Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick Plans Taiwan Visit in Defiance of China

A Republican lawmaker has hinted at plans for a U.S. delegation to visit Taiwan, in a gesture of support for the democratic island nation that is likely to draw strong opposition from the Chinese government.

Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday and mentioned in passing what appeared to be developing plans to fly to Taipei.

"I just returned from Ukraine two days ago. My next stop will be Taiwan," Fitzpatrick told Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was grilled for over four hours on the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"Sir, these people are scared to death. They're scared to death," said the congressman, who called on Blinken to reaffirm American security commitments to both countries.

Questioning by Fitzpatrick and fellow Republican Chris Smith (NJ-4) alluded to coordinated efforts by China and its state-owned media organs to undermine U.S. credibility in Asia and elsewhere. Senior Taiwanese officials, including its president and premier, have had to defend themselves against suggestions that they might capitulate or flee the island in the event of a Chinese attack, similar to the Afghan government's retreat ahead of the Taliban's advance on Kabul.

As Taiwan considers the U.S. its most important relationship and strongest international backer, American delegations to the island—always high profile and scrutinized by Beijing—are seen as noteworthy and morale-boosting gestures of support.

U.S.-Taiwan relations have remained strictly unofficial since Washington switched allegiances to formally recognize Beijing as the government of China in 1979. The People's Republic of China (PRC)—founded in 1949—opposes all interactions between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic relations with Beijing, especially the U.S.

The Chinese government protested the Biden administration's decision to send a delegation of former U.S. officials to Taipei in April. It also opposed a three-hour June visit by three sitting U.S. senators.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry told Newsweek that the government "always welcomes" visits by members of Congress, and that it would make an announcement if there are further developments.

Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou described Fitzpatrick—a member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus—as "extremely friendly to Taiwan," supporting efforts both to establish a bilateral trade agreement and to see the return of Taiwan to the World Health Assembly.

In a statement sent to Newsweek via his office, the congressman said: "Taiwan has never been part of the PRC. I will always stand with the Taiwanese people and their right to defend their sovereignty against the Chinese Communist Party's aggression."

At a regular press conference on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned the U.S. it was at risk of "seriously undermining" relations with China and peace across the Taiwan Strait, following a Financial Times report that said the Biden administration was considering a name change for Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington.

Taiwan's request to rename the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" to the "Taiwan Representative Office" is said to have the popular support of the White House's National Security Council, including that of chief Indo-Pacific adviser Kurt Campbell.

Update (9/15/2021, 10:25 p.m.): This story has been updated with a comment from the office of Representative Brian Fitzpatrick.

Republican Congressman Plans Visit to Taiwan
A file photo of Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) speaking during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on April 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Al Drago / Pool/Getty Images