China on Monday hit out at a visit by three U.S. Senators to democratic Taiwan, as the U.S. pledged to deliver a large tranche of COVID-19 vaccines to the island.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the brief stopover in Taipei made by Senators Tammy Duckworth, Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons, who announced the donation of vaccines.

Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the CCP, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, says Beijing has been hampering its attempts to source supplies of imported vaccines, as part of an ongoing campaign to isolate the country's government -- which it doesn't recognize -- on the international stage.

Sen. Duckworth told reporters at Taipei's Songshan Airport: "It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines, because we recognize your urgent need and we value this partnership."

President Tsai Ing-wen said the brief visit by the Senators had demonstrated the "rock-solid friendship" between Taipei and Washington.

"I also look forward to future cooperation with the United States, Japan and other countries, through which Taiwan will be able to overcome the immediate challenges facing it," she said.

Taiwan is currently under level 3 restrictions amid a wave of community transmissions of COVID-19, following months without any outbreaks, after Tsai imposed tough immigration restrictions at the start of the pandemic.

Standing by Taiwan

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wang Ting-yu said vaccine donations from the U.S. and Japan showed that democratic countries are standing by Taiwan in response to Chinese pressure on other countries. Japan had earlier donated 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Taiwan, Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said it was now Taiwan's turn to benefit from international aid and cooperation, after its government donated equipment overseas at the start of the pandemic.

"We must overcome all obstacles if we are to ensure that Taiwan's supply of vaccines isn't blocked by Beijing during the delivery process," Wu warned.

"This isn't just about Taiwan's international status, but about how to defend our freedoms and our democratic way of life in the face of authoritarian aggression," he said.

"Taiwan is at the forefront of universal values ... Democracy will endure," Wu said.

'The price of freedom'

At the airport on Sunday, Duckworth said she wanted to help Taiwan because her grandmother fled CCP rule on foot, crossing the border into Thailand, where her own mother was born.

"My family and I know the price of freedom. And I'm here to tell you that the United States will not let you stand alone," said Duckworth, who served in the U.S. military for over 20 years before being elected to Congress.

"We will be by your side to make sure the people of Taiwan have what they need to get to the other side of this pandemic and beyond," she said.

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