Two possible U.S. presidential candidates are visiting Asia this week, trips that come as the U.S. steps up efforts to counter Chinese influence.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said in a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday that his state would open a Taiwan trade office, according to a statement from the Presidential Office in Taipei. Youngkin would sign a memorandum of understanding on enhancing bilateral economic ties as part of his trip to Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry in Taipei said.
Separately, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that he appreciated Japan’s efforts to boost its defenses, adding he recognized that the nation is in a “tough neighborhood” with North Korea and China. Kishida last year ordered a sharp hike in defense spending, in part due to China’s threats toward Taiwan.
Both Republicans are seen as potential candidates for president though neither has announced they’ll run. Their visits come as the Biden administration moves to curb China’s tech ambitions, citing national security concerns.
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President Joe Biden aims to sign an executive order in the coming weeks that will limit investment in key parts of the Chinese economy by American businesses, Bloomberg News reported last week, citing people familiar with the internal deliberations. The U.S. has also convinced the Netherlands and Japan to curb exports of advanced chips to China.
China objects to nations it has official ties with from interacting with Taiwan. Earlier this month, the People’s Liberation Army held military exercises around the democracy after Tsai met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.
Youngkin, like other Republicans, has adopted an increasingly hawkish tone on China, raising concerns about its investments in his state.
He removed Virginia from consideration for the site of a proposed electric-vehicle battery plant planned by Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese partner, calling the project a “Trojan horse” that would allow Beijing to undermine the U.S. auto industry. Ford and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. later announced they would build the multi-billion dollar plant, which is expected to create 2,500 jobs, in Michigan.
Separately, New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih met Singapore’s deputy prime minister, Lawrence Wong, during a four-day trip last week. Taiwan and Singapore both play key roles in maintaining peace in the region, Hou said Saturday after he returned to Taiwan.
Hou, a member of the opposition Kuomintang, is seen as a potential candidate in Taiwan’s presidential election next year.