U.S trip: Taiwan president defiant as China threatens retaliation
President Tsai Ing-wen says external pressure will not stop Taiwan engaging with the world as she left for the United States on Wednesday.
“External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world,” she said at Taiwan’s main international airport at Taoyuan, in a veiled reference to China.
“We are calm and confident, will neither yield nor provoke. Taiwan will firmly walk on the road of freedom and democracy and go into the world. Although this road is rough, Taiwan is not alone.”
Tsai is going to Guatemala and Belize, transiting through New York first and Los Angeles on the way back. While not officially confirmed, she is expected to meet McCarthy while in California.
Speaking in Beijing shortly before Tsai left, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Tsai’s “transits” of the United States were not just her waiting at the airport or hotel, but for her to meet U.S. officials and lawmakers.
“If she has contact with U.S. House Speaker McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said.
“We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” Zhu added, without giving details.
China has repeatedly warned U.S. officials not to meet Tsai, viewing it as support for the island’s desire to be seen as a separate country.
Tsai’s transits will come at a time when U.S. relations with China are at what some analysts see as their worst level since Washington normalised ties with Beijing in 1979 and switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei.
Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major bone of contention with Washington, which, like most countries, maintains only unofficial ties with Taipei.
However, the United States government is required by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
The United States says such transits by Taiwanese presidents are routine and that China should not use Tsai’s trip to take any aggressive moves against Taiwan.
A senior U.S. official said that in her previous transits Tsai had engaged in a range of activities, including meetings with members of Congress, the Taiwanese diaspora and other groups.
“So there’s absolutely no reason for Beijing to use this upcoming transit as an excuse or a pretext to carry out aggressive or coercive activities aimed at Taiwan,” the official said.
Taiwanese presidents routinely pass through the United States while visiting diplomatic allies in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, which, although not official visits, are often used by both sides for high-level meetings.