Taiwan outbreak resumes More than 60 U.S. lawmakers urge Blinken to provide vaccine

An empty street in Xindian district of New Taipei City on May 21 following the outbreak of a local outbreak in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung said Friday (May 21) that he has spoken with the U.S. health secretary to seek help in obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine due to an increase in local cases of the Chinese Communist virus (New Coronavirus). On Friday, members of Congress from both parties also sent a letter to the secretary of state urging the Biden administration to share the COVID-19 vaccine with Taiwan.

“The Washington Examiner exclusively reports that more than 60 Republican and Democratic lawmakers signed a letter sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Texas) urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prioritize Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific vaccine distribution effort. The letter is based on three reasons: Taiwan’s “maturity” in fighting the epidemic, its resistance to the Chinese Communist Party’s weaponization of the global supply chain, and Taiwan’s donations of masks to the United States.

“Taiwan is working hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 and avoid an economic embargo,” the letter reads. “Measures to slow proliferation would threaten not only Taiwan’s domestic economy, but also the chips that are critical to the sustainable production of U.S. technology and the automotive industry, semiconductors and other electronics, thereby having a huge secondary impact on the U.S.’s own (economic) recovery.”

Barr, a Republican, said he wants the Biden administration to help Taiwan because of the rising trend of COVID-19 cases there.

“Taiwan is a trusted partner of the United States in global health, trade and many other important areas,” Barr told the Washington Examiner. “At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan provided much-needed personal protective equipment to the United States.”

Last year, Taiwan donated more than 12 million masks to the United States.

Republican lawmakers who signed the letter also include Republican Caucus Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Brian Mast and Rep. Michael Waltz, among others; Democratic House members include Sanford Bishop (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), among others.

Chen said Friday that he has spoken with U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra about health care cooperation. Becerra said he would refer the matter to U.S. President Joe Biden.

This is the highest level of contact between the U.S. and Republic of China governments since the Biden administration took office.

The Central News Agency (CNA) reported that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said U.S. Health Secretary Becerra had also expressed support for Taiwan’s access to vaccines when he met with Health and Welfare Secretary Chen Shih-chung by video message on Friday. The ROC government will continue to work with the U.S. executive branch and Congress to strengthen the Taiwan-U.S. epidemic prevention partnership on the basis of the existing good foundation.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday expressed its displeasure with the U.S.-Taiwan interaction, claiming that Taiwan is using COVID-19 as a tool for political manipulation.

President Biden announced Monday (May 17) that the U.S. will ship 20 million doses of U.S.-made vaccines abroad by the end of June. The White House said the vaccines will come from vaccine stocks from Pfizer, Modena or Johnson & Johnson.

The Biden administration also previously pledged to export about 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to foreign countries by the end of June. The AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used around the world, but has not yet been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This means that by the end of June, the U.S. will have exported 80 million doses of the vaccine to foreign countries.

In recent times, the Chinese Communist Party has been eyeing Taiwan, sending military aircraft to disturb the country and conducting naval exercises in Taiwan. U.S. strategists argue that Taiwan is a key link in a chain of democracies and that its presence impedes Beijing’s expansionist ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.