BEIJING: China vowed on Tuesday to “firmly defend” its national sovereignty, ahead of a meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California this week. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Beijing would “closely monitor the situation and firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity” after McCarthy confirmed the talks the day before. China claims the democratic island of Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day and, under its “One-China” principle, no country may maintain official ties with both Beijing and Taipei.
It has already warned McCarthy, a Republican, that he would be “playing with fire” by meeting Tsai. “China is strongly opposed to the US arranging for Tsai Ing-wen to transit through its territory, and is strongly opposed to the meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the third-ranking US official, and Tsai Ing-wen,” Mao said. “It seriously violates the One-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, and seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she told journalists.
Central American tour Tsai plans to stop over in the United States on her return from Central America, where she has met the leaders of Guatemala and is visiting Belize before meeting McCarthy. McCarthy’s office said on Monday the “bipartisan” meeting would take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, just outside Los Angeles. He had originally planned to follow the example of his predecessor as speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who visited Taiwan in August. That visit prompted China to conduct its largest-ever military exercises around the self-governing island.
McCarthy’s decision to meet Tsai in the United States was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for Taiwan but avoid inflaming tensions with China. However, Xu Xueyuan, the charge d’affaires of China’s embassy to the United States, told reporters last week Washington risked “serious confrontation” no matter whether US leaders visited Taiwan or the reverse. “The US keeps saying that transit is not a visit and that there are precedents, but we should not use past mistakes as excuses for repeating them today,” she said.
Xu urged Washington “not to repeat playing with fire on the Taiwan question”, alluding among other things to last year’s visit to Taiwan by Pelosi. China’s consulate in Los Angeles said on Monday the meeting in California would “greatly hurt the national feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people” and undermine “the political foundation of China-US relations”. ‘Peace and stability’ Tsai was greeted by flag-waving Taiwanese expatriates as she addressed a banquet after arriving in New York on Wednesday ahead of her Central America swing.
“We have demonstrated a firm will and resolve to defend ourselves, that we are capable of managing risks with calm and composure and that we have the ability to maintain regional peace and stability,” she told attendees. Laura Rosenberger, who heads the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy in the absence of diplomatic relations, welcomed Tsai to New York but the State Department said it did not expect officials to meet her. The United States remains Taiwan’s most important ally—and its biggest arms supplier—despite switching its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
The US stopover comes at a key time, with Beijing having ramped up military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016. US media reported that about 20 US lawmakers planned to accompany the speaker to the meeting in California. China has increased investment in Latin America, a key diplomatic battleground between Taipei and Beijing since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
Taiwan accused China on Sunday of using “coercion and intimidation” to lure away its allies after Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang officially launched relations in Beijing. In Belize on Monday, Tsai thanked one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies for its diplomatic support amid “constant threats and pressure” from China. Only tiny Belize and Guatemala remain allies of Taiwan in Central America after Honduras shifted its allegiance to Beijing. – AFP