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Taipei, May 27 (CNA) The first United States congressional delegation to visit Taiwan following the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) reiterated Washington’s long-term support for Taiwan on Monday, stressing that the U.S. will continue to be Taiwan’s “reliable partner.”

During a meeting with Lai at the Presidential Office, Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is leading a six-member bipartisan delegation to Taiwan, said the group was appointed by House Speaker Mike Johnson to convey congratulations to Lai on his inauguration.

The Republican said that following Lai’s inauguration last Monday, China held a round of military exercises in response.

“The forces of China conducted intimidating military exercises, sending 110 aircraft and 46 warships, demonstrating they are not interested in taking Taiwan by peaceful means,” he said.

He called on all democracies to “stand together against aggression and tyranny,” whether the tyranny is Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

The lawmaker cited the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which has served as a cornerstone guiding unofficial U.S-Taiwan relations since ending diplomatic relations in 1979, which requires Washington to provide weapons systems of a defensive nature to help Taiwan’s self-defense.

“We must make sure that no one in their right mind will try to upset the peace in which you have thrived. America is and always will be your reliable partner and no amount of coercion or intimidation will slow down or stop the routine visits by the Congress to Taiwan,” he added.

Meanwhile, President Lai expressed gratitude to McCaul, his delegation and the U.S. Congress as a whole for their long-term support of Taiwan.

The president said his new government will continue to deepen cooperation with the U.S. and other like-minded countries to jointly maintain regional peace, stability and prosperous development.

Lai also said he is an admirer of late U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” concept.

“Moving forward, my administration will continue to enhance national defense, showing the world the determination of Taiwan’s people’s to defend their home,” he added.

At a Monday noon press event, McCaul said his group is here “to celebrate a victory for democracy, and we stand in bipartisan unity in support of that freedom and democracy.”

When asked about the current backlog of weapons orders, McCaul said the roughly US$20 billion in delayed Taiwan arms orders from the U.S. is mostly due to defense industrial base related issues.

The just-concluded Chinese drills encircling Taiwan following Lai’s May 20 inauguration again reminded the world of the “very dangerous situation” across the Taiwan Strait, he noted.

“And that’s why deterrence is so important. I know every member [congresspersons] here will take that message [of speeding up their country’s delivery of military weapons to Taiwan] back,” he said.

Before the backlog issue is solved, McCaul said President Joe Biden over the past months has signed grant and Foreign Military Financing loans to Taiwan worth US$4 billion as a sign of support.

As to what kind of weapons Taiwan needs most from the U.S. to boost its defense, McCaul said maritime assets are more important than land-based ones to prevent People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops from landing in Taiwan.

McCaul’s delegation, which arrived in Taiwan late Sunday, also includes Republicans Young Kim, Joe Wilson, and Andy Barr, and Democrats Jimmy Panetta and Chrissy Houlahan.

In addition to meeting Lai and attending a banquet hosted by Foreign Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) during their five-day visit to Taiwan, the delegation will also meet Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), and other members of Lai’s new foreign affairs and national security team to exchanges views on issues of mutual concern, regional security and Taiwan-U.S. relations, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The PLA’s latest joint military drills were held Thursday and Friday in areas around Taiwan, three days after Lai’s inauguration.

Beijing has expressed dissatisfaction over Lai’s inauguration address, which it claimed promoted Taiwan independence.

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