A US Senate delegation arrived in Taiwan yesterday, the first group of US senators to visit Taipei since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008.
The last visit by US senators was in January 2008.
The delegation was led by Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. She was accompanied by Republican Mark Udall of Colorado and Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Aside from a photo-op with Ma, the delegation wishes to keep their itinerary unpublicized, said Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs.
The delegation is scheduled to leave Taipei today. In a press release, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said the delegation would meet leading political and academic figures to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) yesterday said the visit was of significance to Taiwan-US relations.
Feinstein, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is on good terms with US President Barack Obama and is a heavyweight in the Senate, Lin said.
The 76-year-old congresswoman is on her fourth term since becoming senator in 1992. During her long political career, Feinstein has created many “firsts,” including serving as the first female mayor of San Francisco, the first woman elected to chair the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee. She is also the first woman to have hosted the US presidential inaugural ceremony.
“They would not have embarked on such a visit without approval from Obama, which suggests that President Ma’s cross-strait policies are welcomed and applauded by the US government,” Lin said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), however, saw things differently.
“Little progress has been made in US-Taiwan relations since Ma took office. This is demonstrated by the fact that the US hasn’t agreed to sell Taiwan F-16C/D fighter aircraft and diesel submarines, which Taiwan needs most.”
Asked about the visit by reporters during a roundtable discussion on Friday evening, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt said he was only authorized to say that the visit was “a short and unofficial visit.”
On whether the visit carried any significance in terms of improving US-Taiwan relations since Ma’s inauguration, Burghardt said people should not fall into an “overanalysis trap.”
Additional reporting by CNA
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