U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will host a meeting in California on Wednesday with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, his office said, part of a sensitive U.S. stopover that has drawn Chinese threats of retaliation.
China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly warned U.S. officials not to meet Tsai.
China warned U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday not to “repeat disastrous past mistakes” by meeting the Taiwan president, saying it would not help regional peace and stability, only unite the Chinese people against a common enemy.
Tsai is on her first U.S. stopover since 2019, though Taiwanese presidents have regularly made such trips.
“On Wednesday, April 5th, Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be hosting a bipartisan meeting with the President of Taiwan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” his office said in a statement.
The announcement is an official confirmation of what had been a widely anticipated meeting.
It will be the first between a Taiwanese leader and a U.S. House of Representatives Speaker on U.S. soil, although it is seen as a potentially less provocative alternative to McCarthy visiting Taiwan, something he has said he hopes to do.
CHINA SAYS STOPOVE CLAIM IS FALSE
Tsai will make what is formally called a “transit” in Los Angeles on her way back to Taipei after a trip to Central America. The United States says such stopovers are common practice and there is no need for China to overreact.
But China’s consulate in Los Angeles said it was “false” to claim it as a transit, adding that Tsai was engaging in official exchanges to “put on a political show”.
No matter in what capacity McCarthy meets Tsai, the gesture would greatly harm the feelings of the Chinese people, send a serious wrong signal to Taiwan separatist forces, and affect the political foundation of Sino-U.S. ties, it said in a statement.
“It is not conducive to regional peace, security nor stability, and is not in the common interests of the people of China and the United States,” the consulate added.
McCarthy is ignoring the lessons from the mistakes of his predecessor, it said, in a veiled reference to Pelosi’s Taipei visit, and is insisting on playing the “Taiwan card”.
“He will undoubtedly repeat disastrous past mistakes and further damage Sino-U.S. relations. It will only strengthen the Chinese people’s strong will and determination to share a common enemy and support national unity.”
Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China will closely follow developments and resolutely and vigorously defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, without giving details.
The White House has urged China to not use Tsai’s “normal” stopover in the United States as a pretext to increase aggressive activity against Taiwan.
“During transits through the U.S., the President engages with American friends, in line with past precedents,” Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington said without elaborating when asked about the meeting.
TENSIONS IN TAIWAN STRAIT
Beijing has threatened retaliation for the meeting, as tensions continue to be on the rise between China and the U.S.
Nine Chinese aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line on Friday carrying out combat readiness patrols, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.
China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory despite the strong objections of the island’s government, has been angered by what it sees as stepped up U.S. support for Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the nine Chinese aircraft crossed at points in the north, center, and south of the strait’s median line, which used to serve as an unofficial buffer between the two sides.
Taiwan’s armed forces responded using its own aircraft and ships to monitor the situation using the principle of “not escalating conflicts or causing disputes”, the ministry said.
“The communist military’s deployment of forces deliberately created tension in the Taiwan Strait, not only undermining peace and stability, but also has a negative impact on regional security and economic development,” it said in a statement.
A senior Taiwan official familiar with security planning told Reuters the Chinese aircraft had only “slightly” encroached across the median line, and that no unusual movements by Chinese ships had been stopped.
“We have made all preparations in case China reacts irrationally,” the official stated. “The more the international community pays attention to Taiwan, the more upset they get.”
Speaking to reporters in Taipei earlier on Friday, Premier Chen Chien-jen said Taiwan was a “democratic country” with the right to go out into the world.
“I hope that China will not find pretext to provoke,” he said, when asked about Beijing’s retaliation threat.
“China’s authoritarian expansion will in fact cause unnecessary trouble, so we here again make this call, hoping that China can reduce its provocative actions.”
There was no immediate response from China.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters