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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Lynn Sweet

In Taiwan, Sen. Duckworth pitches Illinois business; pledges security support as China threat looms

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., left, meets with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, May 31, 2022. On a visit to Taiwan, Duckworth reiterated support for the island amid rising Chinese threats. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Duckworth is in Taiwan and South Korea this week to strengthen economic ties with Illinois while the Chinese government is blasting her visit to Taiwan as it steps up its threats against the island it claims.

This is Duckworth’s second visit to Taiwan in a year — she was there last June to announce that the U.S. was shipping 750,000 COVID vaccines to the island, a trip also condemned by the Chinese.

Duckworth landed in Taipei on Monday local time for the three-day visit as China is taking more aggressive actions against Taiwan. The Biden administration is worried about an invasion at a time Russia continues its unprovoked attacks on Ukraine.

Duckworth took with her members of the Pritzker administration — Bria Scudder, First Assistant Deputy Governor, Infrastructure, and Christy George, First Assistant Deputy Governor, Budget and Economy, as well as Dan Seals, the Chief Executive Officer of Intersect Illinois, a public private partnership dealing with global business development for the State of Illinois. 

Duckworth discussed trade and security issues with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday, local time. The Illinois delegation was also scheduled to meet with Premier Su Tseng-chang and Economic Affairs Minister Wang Mei-hua before flying to South Korea on Wednesday for more business development meetings.

Duckworth was born in Thailand; her mother is the daughter of Chinese immigrants to Thailand whose family fled Communist China. Her father was from Virginia.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a tweet Foreign Minister Joseph Wu “held a welcome banquet” for Duckworth and her delegation. “The atmosphere was warm & conducive to rewarding talks on #Taiwan-#USrelations. We’re grateful to host such good & trusted friends at a time of international uncertainty.”

The U.S. and Taiwan have no formal diplomatic relations, though the U.S. heavily supports Taiwan and it’s efforts to rebuff Chinese control. The Biden administration — like Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s team and Duckworth — is looking to spur more economic development with Taiwan, especially in high tech industries, electric vehicles and supply chains.

With a Chinese invasion a possibility, on May 26, Duckworth — an Iraq war vet, former National Guard officer and member of the Armed Services Committee — introduced the “Strengthen Taiwan’s Security Act,” which would “assess opportunities to deliver lethal aid to Taiwan, enhance Taiwan’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and increase needed prepositioned stocks in the region.”

In Washington, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told the Sun-Times Duckworth’s visit to Taiwan “gravely violates” the “One-China” and other policies that are part of the Sino-U.S. relationship “and has lodged stern” complaints with U.S. officials.

The spokesperson said China wants to “stop all forms of official interactions with Taiwan” to “avoid sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, lest it should further undermine China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The Associated Press reported that “China sent 30 military aircraft toward the island on Monday in an ongoing campaign of regular flights. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it responded by scrambling jets, putting air defense missile systems on alert and issuing radio warnings.”

A Duckworth spokesperson said, the senator “is pleased to be visiting Taiwan and South Korea, two partners that are vitally important to Illinois’s economy. For the Senator, trip is about helping develop economic relationships and presenting the United States — in particular Illinois — as an ideal location for companies in these countries to make investments. Illinois is uniquely positioned for companies looking to expand manufacturing in the U.S., and the Senator hopes this trip will develop closer economic ties and partnerships throughout the region.”

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