The U.S. donation comes after Taiwan accused China of trying to block the island from accessing vaccines internationally.
The United States will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as part of the country’s plan to share millions of blows worldwide, a delegation of U.S. senators has announced, after Taipei complained that China was obstructing their efforts to access injections.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, who landed in Taiwan on Sunday with two of her colleagues, said her trip underscores the bipartisan support for the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own territory.
“We’re here as friends, because we know Taiwan is going through a tough time right now, so it was especially important that all three of us were here bipartisan,” Duckworth said.
“It was critical for the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines, because we recognize your urgent need and value that partnership.”
He did not give details of what vaccines Taiwan would get or when.
Taiwan is on the rise in domestic cases, but has been affected like much of the world by global vaccine shortages. Only about 3 percent of its 23.5 million people have been vaccinated, and most only need the first shot of two. Taiwan has accused China of blocking its efforts to get vaccines, but Beijing has denied the claims and offered the island vaccines made in China.
But the Taipei government has repeatedly expressed concern about their safety, and independently cannot accept them without changing Taiwanese legislation, which bans their import.
Along with Duckworth, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked Washington for the donation.
“While we are doing everything we can to import vaccines, we need to overcome the hurdles to ensure that these life-saving drugs are delivered smoothly from Beijing,” he said.
Wu said Taiwan was lucky to have many countries with similar ideas showing its support, which he said is about maintaining freedom and democracy in the face of autocracy.
Duckworth and his colleagues Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons also met with President Tsai Ing-wen at Songshan Airport in central Taipei. Tsai said the vaccines, along with those given by Japan last week, would be a big help in their fight against the virus.
“Vaccines are a timely rain for Taiwan and your help will be etched in our hearts,” Tsai told senators, in images posted by his office.
U.S. senators and congressmen visit Taiwan routinely in normal times, but coming amid a surge of infections on the island when its borders remain largely closed to visitors is a strong show of support.
Unusually, they also arrived in a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter, rather than a private jet, as is often the case for senior American visitors.
Taiwan’s vaccine arrivals have been picking up pace.
Japan delivered 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca PLC coronavirus vaccine to Taiwan on Friday for free, in a gesture that doubled the number of shots the island has received so far.