China vows ‘forceful’ measures after US-Taiwan meeting

Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday in a show of U.S. support for the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as its own

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen meets U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S. April 5, 2023.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen meets U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, U.S. April 5, 2023.DAVID SWANSON (REUTERS)

China vowed reprisals against Taiwan Thursday after a meeting between the U.S. House Speaker and the island’s president, saying the U.S. was on a “wrong and dangerous road.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday in a show of U.S. support for the self-ruled island, which China claims as its own, along with a bi-partisan delegation of more than a dozen U.S. lawmakers.

The Biden administration has said there is nothing provocative about the visit by Tsai, which is the latest of a half-dozen to the U.S. Yet, it comes as as the U.S.-China relationship has fallen to historic lows, with U.S. support for Taiwan becoming one of the main points of difference between the two powers.

But the formal trappings of the meeting, and the senior rank of some of the elected officials in the delegation from Congress, could lead China to view it as an escalation. No speaker is known to have met with a Taiwan president on U.S. soil since the U.S. broke off formal diplomatic relations in 1979.

In response to the meeting, Beijing said it would take “resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” in a statement issued early Thursday morning by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It urged the U.S. “not to walk further down a wrong and dangerous road.”

By Thursday afternoon, there was no overt sign of a large-scale military response as of Thursday afternoon as China had done previously.

“We will take resolute measures to punish the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces and their actions, and resolutely safeguard our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Thursday morning, referring to Tsai and her political party as separatists.

Chinese vessels were engaged in a joint patrol and inspection operation in the Taiwan Strait that will last three days, state media said Thursday morning. The Fujian Maritime Safety Administration said its ship, the Haixun 06, would inspect cargo ships and others in the waters which run between Taiwan and China as part of this operation.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday evening it had tracked the China’s Shandong aircraft carrier passing through the Bashi Strait, to Taiwan’s southeast. On Thursday morning, it tracked three People’s Liberation Army navy vessels and one warplane in the area around the island.

The PLA regularly flies warplanes towards Taiwan and sends navy ships around the island in a pressure campaign that has escalated in recent years.

U.S. Congressional visits to Taiwan have stepped up in frequency in the last year, with the American Institute in Taipei, the de facto embassy, announcing the arrival of another delegation Thursday.

House Foreign Affairs Committee head Michael McCaul of Texas is leading a delegation of eight other lawmakers for a three-day visit to discuss regional security and trade, according to a statement from AIT.

At the Wednesday meeting, Tsai and McCarthy spoke carefully to avoid unnecessarily escalating tensions with Beijing. The two, standing side by side at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, acknowledged China’s threats against the island government.

“America’s support for the people of Taiwan will remain resolute, unwavering and bipartisan,” McCarthy said at a news conference later. He also said U.S.-Taiwan ties are stronger than at any other point in his life.

Tsai said the “unwavering support reassures the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated.”

More than a dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including the House’s third-ranking Democrat, had joined the meeting.

During Tsai and McCarthy’s meeting they spoke of the importance of Taiwan’s self-defense, of fostering robust trade and economic ties and supporting the island government’s ability to participate in the international community, Tsai said.

But she also warned, “It is no secret that today the peace that we have maintained and the democracy which have worked hard to build are facing unprecedented challenges.”

“We once again find ourselves in a world where democracy is under threat and the urgency of keeping the beacon of freedom shining cannot be understated.”

The United States broke off official ties with Taiwan in 1979 while formally establishing diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. As part of its recognition of China, the U.S. “one-China policy” acknowledges that Beijing lays claim to Taiwan, but does not endorse China’s claim, and the U.S. remains Taiwan’s key provider of military and defense assistance.

The U.S. also has a policy of strategic ambiguity, where it does not explicitly say whether it will come to Taiwan’s aid in the case of a conflict with China.

Last summer, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan to meet with Tsai. China has reacted to past trips by Taiwanese presidents through the U.S., and to past trips to Taiwan by senior U.S. officials, with shows of military force. After Pelosi’s visit, China responded with its largest live-fire drills in decades, including firing a missile over the island.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war and have no official relations, although they are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

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