But that visit was overshadowed by Pacific nation Nauru abruptly announcing it was switching allegiance to Beijing, leaving Taipei with just 12 remaining diplomatic allies.
While the United States recognises Beijing over Taiwan, it is a key partner of the island and a major weapons provider.
Speaking to President Tsai Ing-wen after meeting Lai, Diaz-Balart said it was “a challenging time”.
“We see what is coming … out of Beijing, and their level of aggression both here across the strait and across the region,” he said.
“As democracies, as people who believe in freedom, it is incumbent on us to address these aggressions.”
“NEGATIVE WORDS AND DEEDS”
China has never renounced the use of force to try and bring Taiwan under its control and has maintained a near-daily military presence around the island.
On Wednesday, 18 Chinese warplanes, six naval vessels, and three Chinese balloons were detected around Taiwan, according to Taipei’s defence ministry.
On the same day, a US warship sailed southward through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive waterway separating the island from China, the US Navy said in a statement.
“(The USS John Finn’s) transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle,” it said.
“No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.”
In Beijing, the foreign ministry complained Thursday that Washington had “carried out a series of negative words and deeds” since Lai’s election.
Spokesman Wang Wenbin urged the United States to “immediately stop infringing and provocative actions” and “stop causing trouble for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.