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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reportedly said he was “optimistic” about relations between the United States and Taiwan in a momentous meeting Wednesday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in southern California, despite heavy opposition from Beijing as China launches yet another military drill around Taiwan.
At a highly anticipated meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, McCarthy told Tsai he hopes to “continue to find ways for the people of America and Taiwan to work together and promote economic freedom, democracy, peace and stability,” CNN reported.
Tsai reportedly told McCarthy at the meeting America’s “precious and unwavering support reassures the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated,” but added the island’s democracy is facing an “unprecedented challenge.”
McCarthy’s meeting with Tsai follows former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)’s visit to Taiwan’s capital Taipei last August, and it marks the latest attempt to bolster U.S. relations with Taiwan, amid souring relations between Washington and Beijing over national security and economic concerns.
The talks between Tsai and McCarthy come despite the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles’ warning this week the meeting would strengthen China’s determination to reunify with Taiwan and serve as a “serious violation” of the one-China principle, which deems Taiwan a part of China, and warnings from Chinese officials that the meeting would be seen as a “provocation.”
Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, slammed the planned meeting in a statement Tuesday, warning Beijing would “definitely take measures to resolutely fight back.”
China’s military sent a group of aircraft carriers to the waters south of Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, Reuters reported. Those ships, which passed through the Bashi Channel separating Taiwan from the Philippines, appeared to be part of a Chinese patrol operation ahead of McCarthy’s meeting, though Taiwan’s Defense Ministry condemned their presence off the island’s coast as a mark of Beijing’s attempt to “harass the sea and airspace” near Taiwan, posing a national security threat and undermining regional stability.
Taiwan and mainland China split during a civil war more than 70 years ago, and the People’s Republic of China has threatened to reunify in increasingly bellicose terms, pointedly not ruling out a military operation to retake Taiwan. The U.S. does not recognize Taiwan’s independence or maintain diplomatic relations with it, but does maintain economic ties with the island, the eighth-largest trading partner of the U.S., according to the State Department. The government of mainland China has often objected to closer U.S. ties with Taiwan: China sent warships, including an aircraft carrier, to the waters surrounding Taiwan amid Pelosi’s visit to the island in August, in in its biggest ever military drill, which China’s People’s Liberation Army called a “long-range firepower and live ammunition shooting training.” Taiwanese officials blasted the exercises as “irresponsible, illegitimate behavior. At the time, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby urged China not to carry out military drills and said the visit doesn’t change U.S. policy on Taiwan—a point also made last year by President Joe Biden, who added in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping he would be opposed to any effort by China to change the status quo. In a 60 Minutes interview last September, however, Biden pledged to defend Taiwan if it comes under an “unprecedented attack,” a change from the U.S.’s longstanding refusal to say whether it would enter a China-Taiwan war.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) confirmed in a statement Wednesday he met with Tsai last week while she was in New York City, joining a bipartisan group of lawmakers to meet with the Taiwanese leader. Republican Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) also met with Tsai in New York, Ernst confirmed Wednesday, arguing that deterring “China’s aggression in Asia and beyond” is “critical to America’s security and prosperity.” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) also plans to visit Taiwan this month and meet with Tsai and other government officials and business associates, he announced Tuesday.
McCarthy Meeting With Taiwanese President Will Be Seen As ‘Provocation,’ China Warns (Forbes)
McCarthy’s Meeting With Taiwan’s President Will Only Strengthen Fight For ‘Reunification,’ China Warns (Forbes)
China sends carrier group off Taiwan coast ahead of US meeting (Reuters)