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Taiwan envoy to US says China bullying spurs foreign interest in visits to island

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China’s aggressive military response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has increased interest from other countries’ parliaments in similar trips, the island’s de facto ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday.

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, carried out its largest-ever military exercises around the self-governed island after a visit earlier this month by Pelosi, who was followed this week by five more US lawmakers.

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The White House has said China “overreacted” to Pelosi’s visit, using it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by launching missiles over Taiwan and staging blockade drills around the island.

“What China is doing is they are generating greater interest than ever in visiting Taiwan,” Taiwan’s top representative in Washington Hsiao Bi-khim told Reuters in an interview.

“We have seen since the visit parliaments from other countries also indicating an interest,” she said, naming Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan among countries that could possibly send delegations.

“The victim of bullying needs friends,” Hsiao said. “Their behavior is generating so much attention and sympathy towards our situation,” she said of China’s military actions.

A delegation of Canadian lawmakers plans to visit Taiwan in October, Liberal Member of Canada’s Parliament Judy Sgro said earlier on Wednesday.

Beijing imposed sanctions on a Lithuanian minister who visited Taiwan days after Pelosi’s trip.

Asked if Taiwan would welcome a visit by a Republican speaker should the party take control of the House of Representatives after US midterm elections, Hsiao said: “We have been open for decades to congressional delegations, and that applies to members of any party.”

China has never renounced using force to bring Taiwan under its control and views visits by other countries’ officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the island’s pro-independence camp. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide its future.

Pelosi had said that her visit was a signal that China could not prevent world leaders from traveling to the island.

The United States does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound under US law to provide it with means to defend itself, a long-standing practice which nonetheless angers China.

“This is the move that changes the status quo. This is the move that creates tensions,” China’s ambassador to Washington Qin Gang told reporters on Tuesday when asked about future US arms sales to Taiwan.

Taiwan has previously talked of problems accessing some weapons it has on order from the United States, like shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, especially given supply chain bottlenecks created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hsiao said Taiwan was closely coordinating its defense priorities and delivery schedules with the United States, and that defense industry supply chain issues were being actively addressed.

Read more: US scolds China for overreacting to Pelosi visit, vows ‘ambitious roadmap’ for Taiwan

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