Kevin McCarthy’s office confirms he will meet Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday despite Beijing’s warnings.
The office of United States House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has confirmed that the Republican leader will meet Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in California this week, in a move condemned by Beijing.
McCarthy’s office said on Monday that the speaker will host a “bipartisan meeting” on Wednesday with Tsai, who will be travelling through the US on her way back to Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that China claims as its own.
The California visit will be the second of two stops for Tsai in the US, as she makes her way to and from Central America. Last week, on her way to visit diplomatic allies in Guatemala and Belize, Tsai made a stopover in New York, where she spoke at the Hudson Institute think tank.
“On Wednesday, April 5th, Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be hosting a bipartisan meeting with the President of Taiwan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” McCarthy’s office said on Monday. The library is 64km (40 miles) from the centre of Los Angeles.
Beijing had objected to the meeting before it was confirmed, warning that it would take “resolute measures” to protect Chinese sovereignty.
“There is but one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. As the Chinese side has repeatedly stressed, we strongly oppose any form of official interaction and contact between the US side and Taiwan authorities,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
A spokesperson for the China consulate general in Los Angeles later added that China “firmly opposed” Tsai’s travel through the US.
The Wednesday meeting will “greatly hurt the national feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people” and undermine “the political foundation of China-US relations,” a consulate spokesperson said, adding it would “further damage China-US relations.”
The stopover was also confirmed late on Monday by Tsai’s office, which said the Taiwanese president planned to attend a bipartisan meeting led by McCarthy at the Reagan library.
Tsai’s spokesperson Xavier Chang said it was the right of the Taiwan people to exchange with other democracies and “China is not in a position to meddle,” according to the island’s Central News Agency.
Washington, which considers Beijing its top global rival, had urged China against “overreacting” to Tsai’s US plans, describing her stopover as “normal” transit.
“This transit is consistent with our long-standing unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and it is consistent with the United States’ ‘One China’ policy, which remains unchanged,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said last week.
Under the “One China” policy, the US acknowledges the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing over the Republic of China (ROC) in Taipei as the sole and legal government of China.
But Washington takes no position on Taiwan’s sovereignty. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to take control of Taiwan where the nationalist government set up its administration at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
Only 13 countries maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, after Honduras severed its ties with the island in March. During her visit to Belize on Monday, Tsai thanked the Central American country for its continued support, saying it “has helped give voice to the 23 million people of Taiwan”.
She also condemned what she called “expansionist threats from authoritarian regimes”, an apparent reference to Beijing.
“The people of Taiwan face constant threats from the neighbour on the other side of the Taiwan Strait,” she said.
The last time Tsai met a high-ranking US official was when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022. But the visit spurred anger in Beijing, which staged major war games around Taiwan in response.
Last week, the White House warned against making similar moves in the wake of Tsai’s trip through the US. “The People’s Republic of China should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any activity around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said.
The US does not officially recognise Taiwan but by law is required to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
“During transits through the US, the President engages with American friends, in line with past precedents,” Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, DC, told the Reuters news agency on Monday.
In response to questions about McCarthy’s meeting with Tsai, the White House has said it cannot speak for the top Republican lawmaker or his agenda. Although McCarthy does not represent the administration of US President Joe Biden, the meeting is likely to further inflame tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Ties between the two countries have soured over numerous issues in recent years, including trade, the status of Taiwan, China’s claims in the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
The two countries’ ties were further strained earlier this year when the US shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that traversed its territory.
China insisted the aircraft was a weather balloon that strayed off its course and condemned the decision to bring it down.
Source: Al Jazeera