Senate and House Lawmakers Arrive in Taiwan for Diplomatic Visit

A delegation comprising members of the Senate and House of Representatives landed in Taiwan on Tuesday evening local time for the start of a low-profile diplomatic visit.

Joanne Ou, a spokesperson for the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry, told Newsweek that her department was providing "administrative assistance," with the trip having been coordinated by the Taipei branch of the American Institute in Taiwan—the de facto U.S. embassy on the island.

Enthusiastic plane spotters monitoring public flight-tracking data watched as a U.S. military C-40A took off from Manila and arrived at Songshan Airport in Taipei at around 6:30 p.m. local time. The plane took off shortly after, bound for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

An unconfirmed passenger manifest carried by Taiwan-based Mirror Media said the group numbered 13, including four Republican senators and two representatives. Among them are Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) as well as accompanying staff, the online magazine reported.

Two U.S. military officers—a colonel and a captain—are also said to be part of the delegation, according to the report, details of which Taiwan's Foreign Ministry has not confirmed. Ou said further information would be released in due course.

#AE29FD #166694 USAF Boeing C-40A Clipper

— Ketagalan (@CCCDSLR) November 9, 2021

The American lawmakers are expected to stick to a prearranged itinerary that should see them avoid large crowds as part of Taiwan's standard "diplomatic bubble" agreement—offered to foreign delegates including a group of visiting members of the European Parliament last week.

Due to the sensitive nature of exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan, diplomatic visits are generally not announced beforehand and are only confirmed at the last minute. China, which protests interactions of all forms between Taipei and Washington, had yet to offer a public response at the time of publication.

Taiwanese flight trackers said the legislators appeared to take an indirect route that first involved a flight to Guam, before military transport took them to the Philippines and Taiwan.

While the identities of the visiting members of Congress are not expected to be disclosed until they host a joint press conference on Wednesday local time at the earliest, at least one lawmaker had already hinted at the visit two months earlier.

When quizzing Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) remarked that Taiwan would be his "next stop."

Neither Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, nor Fitzpatrick's office confirmed any related plans when reached by Newsweek at the time.

The last American delegation to be approved by the Biden administration was a three-hour visit to Taipei by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) in early June.

The trio arrived on the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to announce the donation of vaccines to Taiwan at the height of a local COVID-19 break, during a serious shortage of supplies on the island. The gesture drew sharp opposition from Beijing, despite the humanitarian nature of the short visit.

U.S. Delegation Flies to Taiwan For Visit
File: The a plane carrying then-Health Secretary Alex Azar lands at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 9, 2020. Azar, a senior member of President Donald Trump's cabinet at the time, embarked on the highest-level visit to the island since Taipei and Washington broke off formal diplomatic ties in 1979. CHEN CHUN-YAO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images