Taiwan leader’s US meeting plans pose Chinese threat

BEIJING (AP) – China threatened “firm countermeasures” over a planned meeting between Taiwan’s president and the speaker of the US House of Representatives during an upcoming tour of Los Angeles.

Diplomatic pressure on Taiwan has increased recently, with Beijing poaching Taipei’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies while allowing military fighter jets to fly to the island on an almost daily basis. Earlier this month, Honduras established diplomatic ties with China, leaving Taiwan as a sovereign state recognized by only 13 countries.

President Tsai Ing-wen presented the trip as an opportunity to demonstrate Taiwan’s commitment to democratic values ​​on the world stage as she left Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon to begin her 10-day tour of America.

“I want to say to the whole world that democratic Taiwan will resolutely uphold the values ​​of freedom and democracy and continue to be a force for good in the world by continuing a cycle of good and strengthening the resilience of democracy in the world,” he said she told reporters before boarding the plane. “External pressure will not hamper our determination to engage with the world.”

Tsai is scheduled to transit 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, at which time the meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is tentatively scheduled.

The US stops are the most closely watched of her voyage.

Spokeswoman for the Cabinet’s Office of Taiwan Affairs Zhu Fenglian denounced Tsai’s stopover on her way to visit diplomatic allies in Central America at a news conference on Wednesday and demanded that no US officials meet with her.

“We are resolutely opposed to this and will take resolute countermeasures,” said Zhu. The US should “refrain from arranging transit visits from Tsai Ing-wen and even contact American officials, and take concrete measures to fulfill its solemn commitment not to support Taiwan independence,” she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said later Wednesday that China will “closely monitor the evolution of the situation and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The United States should stop claiming to have guard rails for China-US relations while engaging in dangerous activities that undermine the political basis of bilateral ties,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.

Transit visits to the United States by Taiwanese presidents have been routine over the years, senior US officials in Washington and Beijing have stressed to their Chinese counterparts.

On such unofficial visits in recent years, Tsai has met with members of Congress and Taiwanese-American civic groups, and has been greeted by the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, the US government-run nonprofit organization that has unofficial ties 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 rhetorically proposed against the US and Taiwan.

However, the planned meeting with McCarthy has sparked fears of a heavy-handed Chinese response amid heightened friction between Beijing and Washington over US support for Taiwan, trade and human rights issues.

Following a 2022 visit to Taiwan by then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Beijing launched missiles over the area, deployed warships across the Taiwan Strait centerline and conducted military exercises in a simulated blockade of the island. Beijing also suspended climate talks with the US and restricted military-to-military communications 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 as 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 move US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, D-Calif., was the senior American elected official to visit the island since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. As part of the “One China” policy, the US recognizes Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan, but considers Taiwan’s status to be unresolved. Taipei is an important partner for Washington in the Indo-Pacific.

US officials are increasingly concerned that China is trying to achieve its long-proclaimed goal of seizing control of Taiwan by force if necessary. The sides split in 1949 amid civil war, and Beijing sees visits by US politicians as a conspiracy with Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to make the split permanent and slow 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 if China invades, but makes it American policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent a unilateral status change by Beijing.

Tensions rose earlier this year when President Joe Biden ordered a Chinese spy balloon shot down after it passed through the continental United States. The Biden administration also said US intelligence findings show China is considering sending arms to Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine, but has no evidence Beijing has done so so far.

However, China 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. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the allies since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.

The Biden administration has postponed a planned visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing in the wake of the balloon controversy, but has signaled it would like to get such a visit back on track.

Mao of the State Department said the blame for the tensions lay directly with Washington for strengthening ties with Tsai. Beijing froze almost all contacts with Tsai’s government shortly after she was elected to the first of her two terms in 2016.

“It’s not that China is overreacting. It’s because the US has consistently encouraged Taiwan pro-independence forces, which is outrageous in nature,” she said.

Tsai’s state visits coincide with a 12-day trip to China by her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-unification Nationalist Party in an appeal to voters whose descendants arrived with Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated troops in 1949.

Ma has visited sites in the former nationalist capital of Nanjing, emphasizing the historical and cultural ties between the sides while avoiding the politically sensitive issues of China’s determination to eliminate Taiwan’s international presence and refusal to recognize its government.

Tsai is barred from seeking a third term and it is widely expected that her party will nominate Vice President Lai Ching-te for the presidential nomination in January.


AP reporter Huizhong Wu from Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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