Ringo HW CU/AP
SIMI VALLEY, Calif., and TAIPEI — Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed Wednesday to “secure a peaceful state” in which Taiwanese people can continue to thrive in a free and open society. His comments came after a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that Beijing warned against.
Speaking in a joint appearance with McCarthy before a bipartisan group of US lawmakers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles, the Taiwanese leader thanked the US for its support of Taiwan.
“The unwavering support,” Tsai said, “is an assurance to the Taiwanese people that we are not isolated, that we are not alone.”
“To preserve peace, we must be strong,” Tsai said, referring to the policy of the late US President Ronald Reagan.Peace through strength.”
Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin, and Raja Krishnamoorthy, Democrat of Illinois, were among the Democratic and Republican officials in attendance, co-chairs of a new House select committee focused on China.
Outside the arena, a few dozen people staged protests against Tsai’s visit and counter-demonstrations in support of her, while a propeller plane flew in circles above the garden, trailing a banner reading “One China; Taiwan is part of China.”
Beijing is angry about the crowd, but some say the choice of venue signals compromise
Ahead of Tsai’s visit to California, China branded her planned meeting with McCarthy a “provocation” and threatened “countermeasures” if the meeting took place. On Saturday, China’s People’s Liberation Army began live-fire joint force training exercises for its air force, navy and ground forces.
The Chinese embassy in Washington urged Tsai not to meet with US lawmakers on Tuesday. “I must point out that China will not be idle in the face of a blatant provocation and will take necessary and decisive measures in response to an unwarranted situation,” A diplomatic representative wrote to lawmakers.
But some analysts see the California meeting as an attempt to contain Beijing’s anger — because it was not held in Taipei, which McCarthy originally proposed. Last summer, China conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following a controversial visit by former Taiwan Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The Chinese should be relieved that McCarthy is not going to Taiwan,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, a think tank in Washington, DC. Before and they have to, they have to be taken seriously by the US and Taiwan, they can’t be soft.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington was closely watching Beijing’s reaction. “We will watch this as closely as we can, of course we will, and we will always ensure that we maintain and have the necessary capabilities and resources to preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
Tsai is due to step down next year, but her visit is “not just a graduation trip”.
As for Taiwan, Chai’s stop in California and his meeting with McCarthy confirm that the United States, the island’s most important ally, firmly supports the island, even if it does not officially recognize Taipei. He will step down next year and will not run for re-election.
“Sai’s trip is not just a ‘graduation trip’. [as she finishes her term]. “It will definitely be a help to boost Taiwan’s foreign diplomacy,” he said Lin YingyuProfessor of International Relations at Tamkang University, Taiwan.
“Although the US sometimes makes some concessions and engages with China, Chai’s meeting with McCarthy means that the US will stick to its bottom line and not allow China to deal with cross-cutting issues,” Lin says.
These pledges will be reinforced later this week during bipartisan US congressional caucuses. At the helm Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is scheduled to meet Tsai in Taipei on Saturday, the day after he returns from a meeting with McCarthy.
Not everyone in Taiwan was happy about Chai’s visit to the US
Some in Taiwan are wary of the island’s closer ties to the United States
When Tsai began her trip to Central and North America last week, her predecessor, former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, toured various Chinese cities — the first time a retired or former Taiwanese leader has visited mainland China.
“People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait [ethnically] Chinese people, and both descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors,” Ma declared During a highly emotional pilgrimage to his family’s ancestral tomb in China’s Hunan Province.
Despite political tensions, it’s a reminder that both sides of the Taiwan Strait have close cultural and economic ties, says Georgyin, a distinguished research fellow at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
“But this is an opportunity for Beijing to act rationally. If Beijing overreaches, it could be seen as further straining the already tense bilateral relationship with Washington. This could trigger another wave of anti-China sentiment across the US political spectrum,” says Yin.
Ruvitch reported from California and Feng from Taipei. Vincent Nye contributed to this report from Washington, DC