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The government of Taiwan has offered to send emergency responders to aid rescue efforts in China after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the country’s southwestern Sichuan province Monday.
Taiwan’s offer is the first olive branch extended by either country amid weeks of heightened tensions and live-fire military exercises. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered her “sympathy and concern” in a statement from her office.
Taiwan’s fire department also assembled a 40-person team with one rescue dog and 5 tonnes of equipment, saying it was ready to deploy if China desired, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The Chinese government has yet to respond. Authorities have confirmed at least 46 deaths resulting from the earthquake.
China has grown increasingly aggressive toward Taiwan following a spate of visits to the island by U.S. lawmakers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in early August, the highest-level U.S. official to do so since Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
China responded with weeks of military drills simulating an invasion of the island.
While U.S. lawmakers have routinely visited Taiwan for years, China has grown more vocal in its protests. The country argues the visits violate the U.S. One China Policy, which states that the U.S. recognizes the government in Beijing as the only government of China. It also states that the U.S. will not hold formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
China has long claimed ownership over Taiwan, despite the island having its own democratic government. Taiwan split from China in 1949 after Democratic forces lost a civil war against the Chinese Community Party.
While the U.S. does not have a formal embassy in Taiwan, it does have an “American Institute” in the nation’s capital of Taipei. The U.S. has also supplied billions worth of military equipment to the island.
President Biden’s administration approved an additional $1.1 billion sale of military equipment to the Taiwanese military last week. The shipment includes 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles, among other things.