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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi defends trip to Taiwan amid threats from China

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, was part of the congressional delegation that recently visited Taiwan.

WASHINGTON — Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi was part of the group that joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a trip to Taiwan last week.

This was the highest level U-S visit to that country in 25 years.

WBEZ’s Mawa Iqbal spoke with the Schaumburg Democrat about why they went and how their trip could impact already strained relations between U-S and China.

Listen to this story here.

The below transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

WBEZ: What was the purpose of this trip? I don’t know if you had any specific goals for it?

Krishnamoorthi: Yeah, there are two purposes. One was, especially in light of what’s happened in Ukraine, we want to make sure that what happened there does not happen with regard to Taiwan, or any other place in the Southeast Asian region. So it was really important to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies, partners and friends, to, you know, resist any aggression by any actor in the neighborhood, so to speak, including the People’s Republic of China. The second reason why we went was to expand economic ties and cooperation with the region, especially in light of the passage of the chips Act, which encourages the manufacturing of semiconductor chips in America. And so a lot of these countries, including Taiwan, but also Japan, and South Korea, and Singapore, and others, were very excited about this particular bill, because they’re looking to move manufacturing of the semiconductor chips to reliable partners like America. And so we’re looking forward to growing that opportunity.

Yeah. And so speaking of the People’s Republic of China and their threats, I’m sure you saw that they had been issuing warnings about this visit, you know, weeks before you ended up going. Were there any safety concerns for Taiwan or for the US?

There were concerns, obviously, for us as travelers, the United States Air Force and Navy did an excellent job of making sure that we could safely arrive and depart. With regard to the island. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party initiated live fire exercises and military drills, which they’ve done in the past. And they did it again, following our visits. But if the cost of avoiding these provocative measures by the Chinese Communist Party is to cede control of Taiwan, or our travel schedules to them? That is a price we are not going to pay.

It’s also been reported that we’re already seeing some repercussions from the trip for at least for us China relations, so like, interrupted conversations around climate change, and then, you know, dialogue between militaries of both countries. Is it possible to see more of that happening now that, you know, the dust is sort of settling around the trip?

I think that the passage of the historic inflation Reduction Act, which makes major investments in fighting the climate crisis, will be an opportunity, hopefully to re-engage with Beijing. I’m dealing with this common challenge, which is, how does the world reduce our carbon emissions? And, you know, basically fight manmade climate change?

You’re hopeful that those conversations will be able to happen?

Yes, I think that we have to restore peace and calm to the Taiwan Strait. At the same time, we need to make sure that we can walk and chew gum, that is called Taiwan protect its democracy, which we are obligated to do, by the way under the Taiwan Relations Act, but at the same time, engage Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China, on some of our common challenges, such as fighting climate change, but also, hopefully, working on global economic development and so forth.

We unfortunately see the People’s Republic of China throwing its elbows in the neighborhood, whether it’s in the Philippines or with regard to Vietnam, and the South China Sea, or even India on its Northwest borders. And certainly we saw what happened in Hong Kong. And so we need to stand firm, as an international community, that all countries should observe an international rules based order where we can work together, we can make sure that the use of force is not used, and that disagreements are solved peacefully.

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