An upcoming meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will “further damage” relations between Beijing and Washington, China warned Monday.
The Wednesday meeting in California will “greatly hurt the national feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people” and undermine “the political foundation of China-US relations,” a Los Angeles consulate spokesperson said in a statement, adding it would “further damage China-US relations.”
McCarthy, a Republican, earlier confirmed he would meet Tsai in California, defying warnings from China that he was “playing with fire.”
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.
On Monday, McCarthy’s office said 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 island — a self-governing democracy Beijing claims as part of its territory.
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 that 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.
She urged Washington “not to repeat playing with fire on the Taiwan question,” alluding to last year’s visit to Taiwan by Pelosi, among other things.
China claims the democratic island 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.
On Monday, China’s consulate in Los Angeles said: “McCarthy is ignoring the broad support of the international community for the One-China principle, ignoring the lessons that should have been drawn from previous mistakes.”
“There is no doubt that he will make the same mistake again, further damage China-US relations, but it will only strengthen the strong will and determination of the Chinese people” to achieve “reunification” with Taiwan, they added.
As speaker of the House of Representatives, McCarthy is the most senior Republican lawmaker and second in line to the US presidency.
‘Peace and stability’
After arriving in New York last Wednesday ahead of her Central America swing, Tsai was greeted by flag-waving Taiwanese expatriates as she addressed a banquet.
“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.
On Monday in Belize, Tsai thanked one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies for its diplomatic support amid “constant threats and pressure” from China, in an address to the tiny country’s National Assembly.
Only Belize and Guatemala remain allies of Taiwan in Central America after Honduras shifted its allegiance to Beijing last month.
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