Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is Latest U.S. Official to Visit Taiwan Amid China Tensions

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb takes part in a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (not pictured) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

The governor of Indiana arrived in Taipei on Sunday, becoming the latest U.S. official to visit Taiwan and defying pressure from China for such trips not to happen.

China, which claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory despite the Taipei government’s strong objections, has been carrying out war games and drills near Taiwan since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a two-day visit to Taipei earlier this month.

Last week a second group of U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan.

Governor Eric Holcomb tweeted that he would also be visiting South Korea, while Taiwan’s presidential office said he would meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday morning.

“I’m energised to spend this week building new relationships, reinforcing long time ones and strengthening key sector partnerships with Taiwan and South Korea,” Holcomb tweeted.

He termed his visit to Taiwan and South Korea an “economic development trip”, saying he was the first U.S. governor to come to Taiwan since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.

“Our delegation will spend this week meeting with government officials, business leaders and academic institutions to further strengthen Indiana’s economic, academic and cultural connections with Taiwan and South Korea,” Holcomb tweeted.

There was no immediate response from China to his arrival.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Holcomb would also meet representatives from Taiwanese semiconductor companies, although it gave no details, and would sign various trade and technology memorandums of understanding.

Taiwan is home to the world’s largest contact chip maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW), , which is building a $12 billion plant in the U.S. state of Arizona.

China says Taiwan is the most important and sensitive issue in its relations with Washington, and that it considers anything to do with the island an internal issue.

Taiwan’s government says that as the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island it has no right to claim it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million people can decide their future.

China’s military drills have been continuing around Taiwan, though on a smaller scale than the war games conducted immediately after the trip by Pelosi, the highest level U.S. official to visit in decades.

SOURCE: Reuters – Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by David Clarke, Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry