Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy confirmed he will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, defying dire warnings from China that he is “playing with fire.”
Tsai plans to stop over in the United States upon her return from Central America, where she will meet leaders in Guatemala and visit Belize before meeting up with McCarthy.
His office said Monday that the “bipartisan” meeting will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library just outside Los Angeles.
McCarthy originally intended to follow in the footsteps of his Democratic predecessor as president, Nancy Pelosi, who visited Taiwan in August last year and prompted China to conduct its largest-ever military exercise.
McCarthy’s decision to meet with Tsai in the United States was seen as a compromise that would reassure Taiwan’s support but avoid raising tensions with China.
China claims the self-governing democratic island as part of its territory to recover one day, and under the “One China” principle, no country can maintain official relations with Beijing and Taipei.
The United States remains Taiwan’s most important ally – and largest arms supplier – despite its transfer of diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
However, Xu Xuyuan, the charge d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy in the United States, told reporters last week that Washington risks “serious confrontation” whether the US leadership visits Taiwan or vice versa.
She said, “The United States constantly says that transit is not a visit and that there are precedents, but we should not use the mistakes of the past as an excuse to repeat them today.” She urged Washington not to “repeat the game with fire on the Taiwan issue,” referring among other things to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year. .
As Speaker of the House, McCarthy is the first Republican legislator and second in line to lead the United States.
On Monday, Belize Prime Minister Tsai Ing-wen gave a welcome diplomatic boost during her visit, reiterating her country’s support for Taiwan.
“Belize welcomes you home with open arms,” Prime Minister John Briceno told Tsai during a joint session of the National Assembly in Belmopan, the capital of the small Central American country of 400,000 people.
Briceno has benefited from some of Taipei’s largesse, with scholarships, agricultural programs and a $16.5 million grant to build a hospital in the island city and the popular San Pedro tourist center.
As Tsai listened, Briceno applauded a declaration passed by lawmakers last month reaffirming Belize’s formal recognition of Taiwan as an independent and sovereign country.
In his remarks, Tsai spoke of “expansionist threats from authoritarian regimes,” adding that “the people of Taiwan face constant threats from the neighbor across the Taiwan Strait,” referring to China. Tsai thanked Belize for its diplomatic support amid “constant threats and pressure” from Beijing.
Last week, Tsai was greeted by flag-waving Taiwanese expats in New York while addressing a dinner party.
During the dinner, she said: “We have shown a strong will and determination to defend ourselves, that we are able to manage risks calmly and calmly, and that we have the ability to maintain regional peace and stability.
Laura Rosenberger, who heads the American Institute on Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the absence of diplomatic relations, hosted Tsai in New York, but the State Department said she did not expect officials to meet with her.
The US secession comes at an important time, as Beijing has stepped up its military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took power in 2016.
US media reported that about 20 US lawmakers plan to accompany the speaker to the meeting in California.
China has increased its investment in Latin America, a major diplomatic battleground between Taipei and Beijing since the two sides separated in 1949 after a civil war.
Taiwan accused China on Sunday of using “coercion and intimidation” to lure its allies in after Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina and his Chinese counterpart Chen Gang formally launched relations in Beijing.