Over two dozen Republican U.S. senators have praised Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, for making the first official trip by a House speaker to Taiwan in a quarter century despite threats of retaliation from the Chinese government.
Twenty-six GOP senators released a joint statement on Tuesday expressing support for the trip, saying its consistent with congressional precedent.
Pelosi landed in Taipei on Tuesday as part of a tour of Asia. She and the congressional delegation released a statement stressing that the trip "honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy."
The People's Republic of China, which claims that Taiwan is part of China, opposed Pelosi paying a visit to the island and has reportedly threatened military action.
"We support Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. For decades, members of the United States Congress, including previous Speakers of the House, have travelled to Taiwan," read the statement.
"This travel is consistent with the United States' One China policy to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act."
The Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979, which allows for cultural, commercial and other relations between the United States and Taiwan, including possible help with self-defense.
The Republican senators who signed the statement included Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim Risch of Idaho, John Thune of South Dakota, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Cornyn of Texas, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Steve Daines of Montana, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Todd Young of Indiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Boozman of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The territorial dispute derives from the 1940s when Communist forces under Mao Zedong successfully drove the Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek from Mainland China.
The remnant of the Nationalists settled in Taiwan, forming their own government and society. They never signed a peace treaty with the Communist mainland, which refuses to officially recognize Taiwan's independence.
In response to the visit, China said it would hold military exercises around Taiwan to "resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity." Officials noted that the drill would include long-range live firing in the Taiwan Strait and missile tests off Taiwan's east coast, NBC News reports.
"The United States, for its part, has been attempting to use Taiwan to contain China," a statement from China's foreign affairs ministry states. "It constantly distorts, obscures and hollows out the one-China principle, steps up its official exchanges with Taiwan, and emboldens "Taiwan independence" separatist activities. These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it."
In May, a shooter attacked a Taiwanese-American congregation in California, reportedly due to the church's views on independence.
Chinese-American David Chou of Las Vegas, Nevada, allegedly entered Geneva Presbyterian Church of Laguna Woods, California, and opened fire on a Taiwanese congregation that met there, killing one and wounding five others before he was subdued.