Team of UK lawmakers visits Taiwan amid strained China ties

LONDON (AP) — A group of British lawmakers began a visit to Taiwan on Tuesday and were scheduled to meet with President Tsai Ing-Wen and other politicians after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that the “golden era” of U.K.-China relations was over.

The visit by members of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, led by the group's chairwoman, Conservative lawmaker Alicia Kearns, came a day after Sunak described China as a growing “systemic challenge" to Britain's values and interests.

Kearns said Taiwan's voice is “unique and invaluable” within the Indo-Pacific region and the visit had long been a priority for her committee.

“The multiple challenges to security and prosperity across the globe make constructive ties between democracies, such as those enjoyed by the U.K. and Taiwan, all the more important," she said in a statement.

The delegation is scheduled to be in Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory, until Saturday. It plans to meet with Wellington Koo, head of Taiwan's National Security Council, among others.

The British lawmakers said the visit would inform the parliamentary committee's inquiry into Britain's “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific — part of a major update of the U.K.'s foreign policy priorities announced last year by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In August, a visit to the self-ruled island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prompted Beijing to suspend climate change talks with Washington and launch military exercises off Taiwan, including firing missiles that landed in surrounding waters.