Hong Kong (CNN) Taiwan Its president, Tsai Ing-wen, declared on Wednesday that she has every right to “contact the world,” while on a diplomatic mission to Central America, which will include transit in the United States — and has already been condemned by China.
Tsai left Taiwan on Wednesday for a trip 10 day trip She will make stops in New York City and Los Angeles on either side of official visits to Guatemala and Belize.
“External pressure will not prevent our determination to move toward the international community,” Tsai told reporters before takeoff. “We are calm, confident, uncompromising and non-provocative.”
The trip attracted increased attention after reports that Tsai would meet Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy during one of her unofficial stops in the US.
Taiwan has yet to confirm such a meeting.
McCarthy said this month that he would meet Tsai while she was in the US, though he did not set a date.
China opposed the trip before Tsai’s departure, and on Wednesday vowed to “respond firmly” if Tsai meets McCarthy – a move Beijing sees as an infringement of its sovereignty.
The United States was also targeted while Tsai was on her way, with the State Department calling on Washington to stop committing “dangerous acts that underscore the political foundation of the two countries’ relations.”
“It is not the Chinese side that overreacts, but the US side continues to collude to support the separatist forces of Taiwan independence,” said spokesman Mao Ning, using a general phrase used by Beijing to denigrate Taipei.
China’s ruling Communist Party claims the island’s autonomous democracy is its own even though it never controlled it It does not rule out the use of force For a day take Taiwan.
Washington believes there is “absolutely no reason” for Beijing to use Tsai’s transit as a pretext to carry out “aggressive or coercive activities” targeting Taiwan, a senior administration official told reporters, although there are private concerns among some US officials about how to do so. Beijing may react.
Beijing launched multiple missiles and launched massive military patrols around the island after a Visit of then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Last August – the first by a deputy of her rank in 25 years.
The visit also put significant pressure on bilateral relations between the US and China, even though lawmakers make their courses and decisions on foreign activities independently of the US executive branch.
Tsai’s visit also comes at a sensitive time in already strained relations between the United States and China.
that expected visit US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing last month — part of an effort by both sides to stabilize the deteriorating relationship — was called off after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was deflated. shot down over the United States.
A senior U.S. administration official told reporters last week that U.S. officials have made multiple contacts with Chinese officials in Washington and Beijing over the past several weeks to provide them with information about previous U.S. transits of Taiwan chiefs.
The US official said China’s responses indicate that it does not plan to treat this transit as it has dealt with those in the past.
“In all previous transits, President Tsai met with members of Congress as well as state and local officials. She made public appearances, and attended meetings with Taiwanese expatriates,” the official said. “As in past years, President Tsai will be welcomed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Institute (AIT) in Taiwan during this transit.”
AIT is the organization that maintains unofficial US relations with Taiwan. Tsai crossed the United States six times while she was president, according to US officials.
Because of the unofficial relationship between the United States and Taiwan, Tsai’s stopover in the United States does not qualify as an official visit to keep the United States within the long-standing “One China” policy.
Under the “One China” policy, the United States recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never formally recognized Beijing’s claim to the island of 23 million people.
A spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, on Wednesday accused Taiwanese authorities of using such visits to “seek support from anti-China forces in the United States.”
It would also be a meeting between Tsai and McCarthy “another provocation” that “undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“We firmly oppose it and will take measures to resolutely respond,” Zhou said.
After stops in New York City, Tsai is expected to visit Guatemala on April 1 and Belize on April 3. She will move to Los Angeles before returning to Taiwan on April 7, according to the Presidential Office of Taiwan.
Tsai’s trip also comes as the island democracy seeks to strengthen its diplomatic partnerships that have done so diminished in number In the last years.
That took another hit on Saturday when Honduras has established formal diplomatic relations with China and cut it off with Taiwan. Beijing does not have diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Taipei.
Only 13 countries now have official relations with Taiwan – as many countries in Central America and the Pacific have shifted recognition of China in recent years.
However, Taiwan has actual, but unofficial, diplomatic relations with many Western countries including the United States.
During her trip to Taipei last year, Pelosi, a California Democrat, said the visit was meant to “make it unequivocally clear” that the United States “will not give up” on the democratically governed island.
Under leader Xi Jinping, China has stepped up its military, diplomatic and economic pressure on the island, including urging Taipei’s allies to change sides.
These pressures are expected to increase in the coming months as the next presidential election in Taiwan approaches in January.
Tsai’s diplomatic tour also coincides with the first visit to the mainland by a current or former leader of Taiwan since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Former President Ma Ying-jeou, who served as President of Taiwan between 2008 and 2016, is Touring mainland China What appears to be a private trip, however, comes at a time of heightened tensions over the future of Taiwan.
During his time as leader, Ma promoted stronger economic ties with China, but kept Beijing’s reunification drive at bay.
In remarks in the eastern city of Nanjing at the mausoleum of Sun Yat-sen on Tuesday, Ma said people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are “of Chinese origin” and share the same ancestors.
journalist Gladys Tsai in Taipei; CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler in Washington; and Martha Xu in Beijing contributed to this report. Previous reporting from Eric Cheung in Taipei.
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