China warns of ‘resolute countermeasures’ if McCarthy meets Taiwan leader
BEIJING (AP) — China has threatened “resolute countermeasures” at a scheduled meeting between Taiwan’s president and the speaker of the United States House during an upcoming trip to Los Angeles.
Diplomatic pressure against Taiwan has intensified recently, with Beijing poaching Taipei’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies while sending military fighter jets flying to the island almost daily. Earlier this month, Honduras established diplomatic relations with China, leaving Taiwan with just 13 countries that recognize it as a sovereign state.
President Tsai Ing-wen touted the trip as a chance to show Taiwan’s commitment to democratic values on the world stage, as she left Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon to begin her 10-day tour of the Americas.
“I want to tell the world that democratic Taiwan will resolutely safeguard the values of freedom and democracy, and continue to be a force for good in the world, continuing a cycle of goodness, strengthening the resilience of democracy in the world.” , she said. told reporters before boarding the plane. “External pressure will not hinder our resolve to engage with the world.”
Tsai is due to transit through New York on March 30 before heading to Guatemala and Belize. On April 5, she is expected to stop in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, when the meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is tentatively scheduled.
The American stopovers are the most closely watched on his trip.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, denounced Tsai’s stopover on her way to diplomatic allies in Central America and demanded that no American official does not meet her.
“We firmly oppose it and will take resolute countermeasures,” Zhu said. The United States should “refrain from arranging Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visits and even contacts with U.S. officials, and take concrete steps to fulfill its solemn pledge not to support Taiwan independence” , she said.
Speaking later on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said China would “closely monitor developments and resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“The United States should stop pretending to be putting up guardrails for China-US relations while carrying out dangerous activities that undermine the political foundation of bilateral relations,” Mao told reporters at a press briefing. daily.
Transit visits through the United States by Taiwanese presidents have been routine over the years, senior US officials in Washington and Beijing have told their Chinese counterparts.
During these unofficial visits in recent years, Tsai has met with members of Congress and Taiwanese-American civic groups, and was hosted by the president of the American Institute of Taiwan, the nonprofit organization run by the US government that maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan.
Tsai transited the United States six times between 2016 and 2019 before slowing international travel with the coronavirus pandemic. In response to these visits, China has rhetorically raged against the United States and Taiwan.
However, the planned meeting with McCarthy has raised fears of a Chinese backlash amid heightened friction between Beijing and Washington over US support for Taiwan, trade and human rights.
Following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in 2022, Beijing launched missiles over the region, deployed warships to the center line of the Straits of Taiwan and conducted military exercises as part of a mock blockade of the island. Beijing has also suspended climate talks with the United States and restricted military-to-military communications with the Pentagon.
McCarthy, R-California, said he would meet with Tsai when she is in the United States and did not rule out the possibility of traveling to Taiwan as a show of support.
Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, D-California, was the highest elected U.S. official to visit the island since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997. As part of the “One China” policy, the United States recognizes the views of Beijing that they have sovereignty over Taiwan, but consider Taiwan’s status as unsettled. Taipei is an important partner for Washington in the Indo-Pacific.
US officials are increasingly worried that China is trying to achieve its long-standing goal of bringing Taiwan under its control by force if necessary. The sides split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing sees visits by US politicians as a plot with Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to make the split permanent and thwart China’s rise as a world power.
The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governs US relations with the island, does not require Washington to intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion, but makes it US policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status by Beijing. .
Tensions rose earlier this year when President Joe Biden ordered the downing of a Chinese spy balloon after crossing the mainland United States. The Biden administration also said US intelligence findings show China is considering sending weapons to Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine, but has no evidence that Beijing has done so yet.
China, however, has provided Russia with an economic lifeline and political support, and President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Moscow earlier this month. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the allies since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
The Biden administration postponed a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken following the balloon controversy, but signaled it would like to put such a visit back on track.
The Foreign Ministry’s Mao said the blame for the tensions lay entirely with Washington for boosting relations with Tsai. Beijing has frozen nearly all contact with Tsai’s administration since shortly after he was elected to his first of two terms in 2016.
“It’s not that China is overreacting. It’s that the United States has continued to embolden Taiwan independence forces, which is egregious in nature,” she said.
Tsai’s state visits coincide with a 12-day trip to China by his predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-unification Nationalist Party, in an appeal to voters whose descendants arrived with the defeated forces of Chiang Kai- shek in 1949.
Ma visited sites in the former nationalist capital of Nanjing and highlighted the historical and cultural ties between the parties, while avoiding the politically sensitive topics of China’s determination to eliminate Taiwan’s international presence and its refusal to recognize his government.
Tsai is barred from running for a third term and his party is expected to nominate Vice President Lai Ching-te to run for president in January.
AP reporter Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.