Thursday, June 1, 2023

Taiwan leader’s US meeting plans draw Chinese threat

China threatened “resolute countermeasures” over a planned meeting between Taiwan’s president and the United States House speaker during an upcoming trip through Los Angeles.
Diplomatic pressure against Taiwan has ramped up recently, with Beijing poaching Taipei’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies while also sending military fighter jets flying toward the island on a near daily basis.
Earlier this month, Honduras established diplomatic relations with China, leaving Taiwan with only 13 countries that recognise it as a sovereign state.
President Tsai Ing-wen framed 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 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,” she told reporters before she boarded the plane.
“External pressure will not obstruct our resolution to engage with the world.”
Tsai is scheduled to transit through New York on March 30 before heading to Guatemala and Belize.
On April 5, she’s expected to stop in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, at which time the meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is tentatively scheduled.
The US stops are the most closely watched of her trip.
Spokesperson for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office Zhu Fenglian at a news conference Wednesday denounced Tsai’s stopover on her way to diplomatic allies in Central America and demanded that no US officials meet with her.
“We firmly oppose this and will take resolute countermeasures,” Zhu said. The US should “refrain from arranging Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visits and even contact with American officials, and take concrete actions to fulfill its solemn commitment not to support Taiwan independence,” she said.
Speaking later on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China would “closely follow the development of the situation and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“The United States should stop claiming to set up guardrails for China-US relations while conducting dangerous activities that undermine the political foundation of bilateral ties,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.
Transit visits through the United States by Taiwanese presidents have been routine over the years, senior US officials in Washington and Beijing have underscored to their Chinese counterparts.
In such unofficial visits in recent years, Tsai has met with members of Congress and Taiwanese-American civic groups, and has been welcomed by the chairperson of the American Institute in Taiwan, the US government-run nonprofit that carries out unofficial relations with Taiwan.
Tsai transited through the United States six times between 2016 and 2019 before slowing international travel with the coronavirus pandemic.
In reaction to those visits, China lashed out rhetorically against the US and Taiwan.
However, the planned meeting with McCarthy has triggered fears of a heavy-handed Chinese reaction amid heightened frictions between Beijing and Washington over US support for Taiwan, trade and human rights issues.
Following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in 2022, Beijing launched missiles over the area, deployed warships across the median line of the
Taiwan Strait and carried out military exercises in a simulated blockade of the island. Beijing also suspended climate talks with the US and restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.
McCarthy, R-Calif., has said he would meet with Tsai when she is in the US and has not ruled out the possibility of traveling to Taiwan in a show of support.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they don’t support.


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