‘Backing out was not an option’: Krishnamoorthi discusses importance of Taiwan visit

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, left, gestures while speaking with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to leave Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug. 3. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg is second from right. (Courtesy of Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Saying it’s important not to cave to bullies, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Monday discussed his diplomatic visit to Taiwan last week with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the mounting tensions caused by China’s military response.

“I thought backing out was not an option,” the Schaumburg Democrat said. “This is just a normal part of the relationship between countries that are friends.”

The visit, one of several stops in Southeast Asia on the trip, was intended to “prevent what happened in Ukraine from happening in Taiwan” and expand the United States’ economic ties to the region, Krishnamoorthi said.

Taiwan’s booming semiconductor chip industry is interested in making a $25 billion manufacturing investment in the U.S., he said. So, while his role as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence probably played a role in his selection for the diplomatic contingent, the former businessman said he also got to play salesman for investment in the U.S.

The 8th District he represents also includes a strong Asian American community, and Krishnamoorthi said it’s important that the democracies of Asia -- including Taiwan -- continue to flourish.

“It is one of the finest democracies on the planet, with a deep love of freedom,” he said. “It’s like any democracy. You have a range of views. You can talk to anyone about anything.”

Last week’s congressional delegation consisted entirely of Democrats, but U.S. support for Taiwan is deeply bipartisan, Krishnamoorthi said.

“The depth of support for Taiwan among Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate cannot be overstated,” he said.

Likewise, Taiwanese support for the delegation’s visit was palpable.

“Not only did they want us to be there, there were thousands of people there greeting us and lining the streets,” Krishnamoorthi said. “When we met with President Tsai (Ing-wen), she made it clear our visit was welcome.”

Krishnamoorthi said he hopes China’s military exercises in response to the visit are over, as he believes they only worsen that nation’s COVID-troubled economy and alienate it from others.

Other stops on the diplomatic tour included Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Krishnamoorthi said his meetings with U.S. and especially Illinois service members stationed in those countries were among the highlights of his trip.