© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) wears a protective mask during a Senate Armed Forces hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA on May 7, 2020. Kevin Dietsch / Pool via REUTERS
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Three US senators arrived in Taiwan on Sunday in a US Air Force freighter and will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss security and other issues, a trip that is likely to irritate China.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties to the island that China claims, but it is its largest international supplier and sponsor of arms.
Tammy Duckworth and Dan Sullivan of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Christopher Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived at Songshan Airport in central Taipei in a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
They were greeted by the de facto US ambassador to Taiwan, Christensen, and the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, in live images broadcast on Taiwanese television stations.
Tsai was scheduled to meet them at the airport.
It was not immediately clear why they arrived on an air force transport plane and not a private jet that most US officials use when visiting the island.
It is extremely rare for aircraft marked from the United States Air Force to land in Taiwan given the lack of diplomatic relations.
The trip comes as Taiwan is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections and the government is trying to speed up vaccine deliveries.
The United States said last week that Taiwan would receive injections under a White House plan for the United States to share 25 million surplus doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with the world, although Taiwan’s involvement has not been announced.
Taiwan has also complained that China is trying to prevent the island from accessing vaccines internationally, which Beijing has denied.
China routinely denounces visits by foreign officials to Taiwan, calling them interference in the country’s internal affairs.
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