Chinese authorities on Wednesday warned that any meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during her upcoming visit to the U.S. will be viewed by Beijing as provocation, a statement that threatens to further ratchet up U.S.-China tensions.
Tsai is set to arrive in New York early on Wednesday, where she is expected to stay for two days, before traveling to Guatemala and Belize.
On return leg of the trip the Taiwanese President is expected to transit through Los Angeles where a meeting with McCarthy is reportedly planned.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian said any meeting between Tsai and McCarthy will be viewed as “another provocation” and warned Beijing will “definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” Reuters reported.
Zhu also claimed that Tsai’s stop-overs in New York and Los Angeles were not transit related but rather a planned move to meet with U.S. lawmakers and officials.
It is unclear if Tsai has any meetings lined up for her stop over in New York, but the Financial Times reports she will speak at an event Thursday organized by Washington-based Hudson Institute, where she will also receive a global leadership award.
“If she meets with McCarthy, it will be another provocation that severely violates the one-China principle, damages China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and sabotages peace and stability of Taiwan Strait,” Zhu said in her statement.
Before departing on her trip, Tsai said: “External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world. 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.”
If the meeting between Tsai and McCarthy does take place, it would be the second instance in less than a year where the Taiwanese leader has met with the U.S. House Speaker. In August last year, a delegation led by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a surprise visit to Taiwan where they met with Tsai and other Taiwanese officials. China responded angrily to the visit and carried out its biggest ever military drills surrounding the island. The high-stake drills included live firing of long range precision missiles. Tensions between China and the U.S. have ratcheted up in recent months after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon after it flew across the U.S. mainland. Officials in Washington have also alleged that Beijing is planning to provide weapons to Russia to aid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing’s latest warning comes just a day after former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou began his visit to China, which has been criticized by Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Ma, a member of the opposition Kuomintang Party, is the first Taiwanese leader to visit the Chinese mainland since 1949. Upon his arrival in Nanjing on Tuesday, Ma remarked that people on both sides of the Taiwan strait are ethnically Chinese, “both descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors.” Ma’s statement is likely to trigger some pushback in Taiwan as a recent poll suggests more than 80% of the island’s population identifies as Taiwanese while only around 5% identify as Chinese and around 10% as both.
China threatens retaliation if U.S. House speaker meets Taiwan president (Reuters)