Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee countered decades of delicate political terminology on Friday when she met with Taiwanese officials and referred to the island as an "independent nation," in a move sure to upset China.
Blackburn, in a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and in a series of addresses online and in-person, referred to Taiwan as an independent entity. The U.S. government's official policy treats Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.
"We look forward to continuing to help and support Taiwan as they push forward as an independent nation," Blackburn told Tsai in a televised meeting.
Blackburn made a similar remark when she said, "I am looking forward to a wonderful visit. And yes, indeed I do remember my visit fondly in 2008, and the opportunity to get to see some of your country first-hand."
The People's Republic of China has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, the relatively narrow strip of ocean between the island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. The Chinese military has frequently sent planes into the area, testing Taiwan's air defense zone. China considers Taiwan part of Chinese territory, while the island's government rejects those claims and has operated as a self-ruled democracy — officially known as The Republic of China — since 1949.
The U.S. does not have official relations with Taiwan — also known as the Republic of China — and maintains a "One China" policy that recognizes the People's Republic of China as the legitimate successor nation.
Beijing demands that countries seeking relations with China must sever all formal ties from Taiwan, though the U.S. has continued informal ties with the island government.
"I just landed in Taiwan to send a message to Beijing — we will not be bullied," the senator wrote online. "The United States remains steadfast in preserving freedom around the globe, and will not tolerate efforts to undermine our nation and our allies."
"One of the reasons I’ve come to Taipei to have these conversations with Taiwan’s leaders is because we can’t afford to let the Chinese Communist Party write the world’s foreign policy," Blackburn told her audience.