The five-member delegation met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on March 2, after arriving in Taipei the day before. The surprise two-day trip came as a sign of a beefed-up bilateral partnership amid looming threats from authoritarian powers such as Russia and China.

“I do hope by being here with you, we can reassure you and your people, as well as our allies and partners in the region, that the United States stands firm behind its commitments,” said former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen at the Presidential Office.

Referring to the escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict, Mullen said continued peace and stability of the world have never been more important.

“We come to Taiwan at a very difficult and critical moment in world history. … Now more than ever, democracy needs champions,” said the retired U.S. Navy admiral, partially citing President Joe Biden.

He said the latest move is in the pursuit of the “continued and growing strength of the vital partnership” with the democratic island.