Slotkin said the side trip to Taiwan came after celebrating Thanksgiving with US troops in South Korea and that the stop would “be good to connect with leaders here to discuss a whole host of economic and national security issues.”
Taiwan holds a fraught position in the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing, with tensions running high as China increases its military posturing and warplane flights around the self-ruled island.
“We’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” he went on, referring to the 1979 law dictating the American approach to the island. “That’s what we’re doing. Let them make up their mind. Period.”
Explaining his position while greeting attendees following his infrastructure speech that day, Biden said he had made limited progress on the topic with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We made very clear we support the Taiwan Act, and that’s it,” he said at the time.
“Its independence,” he went on. “It makes its own decisions.”
The word “independence” is a trigger when it comes to Taiwan; officially, the US does not support the island’s independence. Instead, the countries enjoy unofficial relations and the US provides defensive support.
CNN’s Rachel Janfaza and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.