A leading Republican senator on Tuesday demanded that President Joe Biden make amends over a cut in transmission of Taiwan’s speech during last week’s democracy summit, in what an official called an “honest mistake.”

Joe Biden
Joe Biden. File photo Cameron Smith/The White House, via Flickr.

Audrey Tang, a Taiwanese minister, was speaking Friday at Biden’s inaugural virtual Summit on Democracy when the broadcast abruptly stopped.

The cut came as Tang appeared before a map that showed Taiwan and China in different colors — indicative of divergent levels of democracy but possibly interpreted as recognizing the island as independent, a stance that infuriates Beijing.

Senator Marco Rubio, who has championed a hard line on China, accused Biden of trying to appease Beijing and questioned why Taiwan, unlike many participants, was not represented by its head of state.

“All that your administration accomplished in downgrading Taiwan’s representation was to once again signal weakness rather than resolve,” he said in a letter.

He asked Biden to take steps to “make amends” over Taiwan including at a second, in-person democracy summit planned for next year.

A State Department official denied any intent, noting that Tang’s presentation can be seen online without interruption.

“There was confusion over the use of screen sharing, which resulted in the video feed being dropped. This was an honest mistake,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“We valued Minister Tang’s participation, which showcased Taiwan’s world-class expertise on issues of transparent governance, human rights, and countering disinformation.”

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio. File photo: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

China denounced the summit, saying the United States was using democracy as a “weapon of mass destruction.”

Tensions have risen in recent weeks as China steps up military moves near Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that Beijing considers a province awaiting reunification.

Biden has sought to emphasize democracy in an implicit shift from his predecessor Donald Trump, who befriended authoritarian leaders, criticized US allies and sought to overturn his election defeat.

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