Wednesday, China threatened retaliation if U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets the president of Taiwan during her upcoming trip through Los Angeles.
President Tsai Ing-wen departed Taiwan Wednesday afternoon on a tour of the diplomatic allies in the Americas, which she framed as an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of Taiwan to democratic values on the world stage.
Tsai is set to travel through New York on Thursday before journeying to Belize and Guatemala. She is then expected to stop in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan on April 5, when a tentative meeting with McCarthy is scheduled.
The proposed meeting has triggered fears of a harsh Chinese reaction amid growing friction between Washington and Beijing over U.S. support for Taiwan and human rights and trade issues.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson, Zhu Fenglian, condemned Tsai’s stopovers and insisted that no American officials meet with her.
“We firmly oppose this and will take resolute countermeasures,” Zhu stated at a news conference. The United States should “refrain from arranging Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visits and even contract with American officials and take concrete actions to fulfill its solemn commitment not to support Taiwan independence,” said Zhu.
China claims that self-governing Taiwan is part of its territory while threatening to force the island under its control if necessary.
China will “closely follow the development of the situation and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Wednesday.
Mao said the U.S. was “conducting dangerous activities that undermine the political foundation of bilateral ties.”
Speaker McCarthy confirms he will meet with Tsai during her visit
Republican Speaker McCarthy from California said he would meet with Tsai when she visits the United States and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of showing support by traveling to Taiwan.
After a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in 2022, Beijing deployed warships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, launched missiles over the area, and carried out military exercises in a simulated blockade of the island. China also restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon and suspended climate talks with the U.S.
Before boarding her plane, Tsai told reporters that, “I want to tell the whole world democratic Taiwan will resolutely safeguard the values of freedom and democracy and will continue to be a force for good in the world, continuing a cycle of goodness, strengthening the resilience of democracy in the world.”
“External pressure will not obstruct our resolution to engage with the world,” said Tsai.
Beijing recently ramped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan by poaching the shrinking number of diplomatic allies while sending military fighter jets flying over the island nation almost daily. Earlier in the month, Honduras established diplomatic ties with China, which leaves only 13 countries remaining that recognize it as a sovereign state.
In a call with reporters before Tsai’s arrival, the administration of the United States underscored that her trip was similar to what she and her predecessors did in the past. During her presidency, Tsai has traveled to the U.S. six times, with stopovers including members of the Taiwanese diaspora and members of Congress.
Officials said Tsai expects to meet with the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) chair Laura Rosenberger. AIT is a nonprofit run by the U.S. government that conducts unofficial relations with Taiwan.
An official added that “there is absolutely no reason” for China to use Tsai’s stopover “as an excuse or a pretext to carry our aggressive or coercive activities aimed at Taiwan.”