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Rep. Ryan Zinke: U.S.-Taiwan meeting explored defense cooperation, Chinese chokehold on minerals

U.S. lawmakers emerged from their meeting Wednesday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen determined to figure out why the U.S. has yet to deliver key weapons systems to Taiwan, according to one of the participants.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, Montana Republican, said both Democrats and Republicans in the meeting want to figure out what the holdup is, and see whether it requires more legislation from Congress to get Taiwan the weapons it has bought but which are stuck in what the administration calls a supply chain backlog.

The U.S. and Taiwanese delegations also discussed shared vulnerabilities to China, including a Chinese chokehold on key minerals for electric-vehicle batteries and a dominant position in microchip production.

The meeting took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, and involved a bipartisan U.S. delegation led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.

Mr. Zinke said the meeting, which has been heavily criticized by China, was critical to asserting the U.S. position on China and Taiwan.

“Freedom matters, and I think it was apropos that we met at the Reagan Center because it was Ronald Reagan that really set this country on a course that we will defend freedom,” he said. “It’s one China, but two systems. And we’ve seen most recently what’s happened in Hong Kong. It was ‘one China, two systems,’ that rapidly eroded into one system.”

He said nothing has changed in U.S. doctrine, but said the meeting was a chance for Ms. Tsai “to say these are the points we need help on.”

A trip to Taiwan last year by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew an outsized reaction from China, which promised severe retaliation against the U.S.

It said it would stop cooperating on limiting the flow of synthetic opioids into the U.S., would not cooperate on taking back its deportees, and would suspend cooperation on climate change.

China has not yet announced any retaliatory steps for Mr. McCarthy’s meeting, which took place in the U.S.

But Mr. Zinke said it was important to make clear to China the limits of its power.

“The speaker of the House of Representatives does not ask permission from China to speak to anyone,” the congressman said.

He was particularly struck by the bipartisanship in the meeting.

“I sat across from a young Democrat from Brooklyn. I hadn’t met him before, he was touted as a young progressive from Brooklyn. Meeting him face to face, he sounded like a Republican to me,” Mr. Zinke said. “It goes to show you we have a lot more in common than we do apart.”

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