US senators urge Trump to keep Taiwan in mind ahead of China tour

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Having bested his rivals, Xi is primed to consolidate his already considerable power as the ruling Communist Party begins its twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

TAIPEI (CNA) – A joint letter signed by 36 United States senators from across party lines released on Tuesday has urged U.S. President Donald Trump to keep Taiwan in mind ahead of his trip to China later this month.

“As you discuss critical issues including North Korean nuclear proliferation and trade priorities, we urge you to remain mindful and an advocate of our vital partnership with Taiwan,” said the letter, signed by 23 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one independent.

The signatories include Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, as well as John McCain (R-AZ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), among others.

The letter also called on Trump to honor the Taiwan Relations Act as his predecessors have, describing the act as the cornerstone of Washington’s Taiwan policy since the two sides severed official diplomatic ties in 1979.

“Your reaffirmation would serve not only to demonstrate the continuity of U.S. policy on Taiwan, but also an important demonstration of U.S. leadership in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the letter said.

The senators all agreed that Taiwan has proved itself to be one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the region and deserving of strong U.S. support.

“Beijing must understand that our strong ties with Taiwan are not negotiable or subordinate to other, unrelated issues,” it noted.

“We hope you will make clear the United States will maintain its relationship and channels of communication with Taiwan and also encourage Beijing to maintain its own,” the letter concluded.

Taiwan’s representative office in the U.S. expressed its gratitude for the joint letter, which it said showed strong cross-party support in the U.S. Congress for Taiwan.

Trump will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines from Nov. 3 to 14, including Nov. 8 to 10 in Beijing.

It will be the first ever trip to China by Trump, and he will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping amid continued speculation that Beijing’s increased importance to U.S. foreign policy could compromise American support for Taiwan. 

By Joseph Yeh