© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) wears a protective mask during a Senate Forces hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the United States, May 7, 2020. Kevin Dietsch / Pool via REUTERS
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Three U.S. Senators arrived in Taiwan on a U.S. Air Force freighter on Sunday and will meet President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss security and other issues, a trip likely to irritate China.
The United States, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island claimed by China, but is its main international supporter and arms supplier.
Tammy Duckworth and Dan Sullivan of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and Christopher Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee arrived at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
They were received by de facto US Ambassador to Taiwan, Christensen, and Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in live images broadcast on Taiwanese television networks.
Tsai was supposed to pick her up at the airport.
It was not immediately clear why they arrived on an Air Force transport plane rather than a private jet that most US officials use to visit the island.
Given the lack of diplomatic ties, it is extremely rare for designated US Air Force jets to land in Taiwan.
The trip comes as Taiwan grapples with a surge in COVID-19 infections and the government tries to speed up vaccine deliveries.
The United States said last week Taiwan would receive syringes as part of a White House plan for the United States to share 25 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world, although Taiwan’s share was not disclosed.
Taiwan has also complained that China is trying to prevent the island from having international access to vaccines, which Beijing has refused.
China regularly condemns visits by foreign officials to Taiwan, calling them interference in the country’s internal affairs.
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