TAOYUAN: External pressure will not stop Taiwan engaging with the world, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday (Mar 29) as she left for the United States, hitting a defiant note after China threatened retaliation if she met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China on Wednesday threatened to retaliate if McCarthy meets Tsai, saying that any such move would be a “provocation”.
China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly warned US officials not to meet Tsai, viewing it as support for the island’s desire to be seen as a separate country.
China staged war games around Taiwan last August when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, and Taiwan’s armed forces have said that they are keeping watch for any Chinese moves when Tsai is abroad.
Tsai is going to Guatemala and Belize, transiting through New York first and Los Angeles on the way back.
While not officially confirmed, she is expected to meet McCarthy while in California, at the end of her trip.
That would be the first meeting on US soil between a House Speaker and a Taiwanese leader, and the prospect has angered Beijing.
“External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world,” Tsai said at Taiwan’s main international airport at Taoyuan.
“We are calm and confident, will neither yield nor provoke. Taiwan will firmly walk on the road of freedom and democracy and go into the world. Although this road is rough, Taiwan is not alone.”
Speaking in Beijing shortly before Tsai left, Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters in Beijing that Tsai’s “transits” of the United States were not just her waiting at the airport or hotel, but for her to meet US officials and lawmakers.
“If she has contact with US House Speaker McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the ‘One China’ principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said.
“We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” Zhu added, without giving details.