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US to donate 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan as part of President Joe Biden’s moveAround the world, three senators said Sunday after the self-governing island complained that China was obstructing its injection safety efforts during the outbreak.
Democrat Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who arrived in Taiwan with her two colleagues, said the trip underscores bipartisan support for the democratic island that Beijing is declaring its own renegade territory.
“We are here as friends because we know that Taiwan is going through difficult times, so it was especially important for the three of us to be here on a bipartisan level,” Duckworth said.
“It was critical for the United States to include Taiwan in the first group to receive vaccines because we recognize your urgent need and value this partnership.”
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and Democratic Senator Christopher Koons of Delaware, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also arrived Sunday morning.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu received the senators at the airport, said he was “glad” to welcome them, and thanked them for their steadfast support.
“Taiwan faces unique challenges in the fight against the virus,” he said. “As long as we do our best to import vaccines, we must overcome obstacles to ensure that these vital drugs are delivered without Beijing’s problems.”
He said China continues to try to block international aid to Taiwan and keep it out of the World Health Organization. “We’re no stranger to this kind of obstructionism,” he said.
Wu said that Taiwan is lucky that many like-minded countries have shown their support, which he says is aimed at upholding freedom and democracy in the face of autocracy.
In recent months, China has stepped up pressure on the island, including launching combat aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace.
Taiwan and China split in the wake of the 1949 civil war, and most Taiwanese are in favor of maintaining the current state of de facto independence, while maintaining active economic exchange with the mainland.
But the significant improvement in China’s military capabilities and its growing activity around Taiwan has raised concerns in the US, which is legally obligated to guarantee Taiwan’s ability to defend itself and treat all threats to the island’s security as a “serious concern.”
Taiwan, which was largely unaffected by the original COVID-19 outbreak last year, is now facing its worst outbreak, with more than 10,000 cases since late April.
On Friday, Japan donated 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan.
Biden announced last week that the United States will soon transfer 25 million doses of excess vaccine overseas through the UN-backed COVAX program, which has provided only 76 million doses to countries in need to date. Overall, the White House has announced plans to share 80 million doses worldwide by the end of June, mainly through COVAX.
Thai-born Duckworth said the US donation also reflects Taiwan’s gratitude for supporting the US as Taiwan donated personal protective equipment and other supplies to the US in the early days of the pandemic.
The three senators are planning to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Yingwen and senior government officials to discuss US-Taiwan relations and other issues during their day trip.
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