China has promised to "retaliate" if the Taiwanese president meets with Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy during a trip to the United States which began Wednesday in New York, before continuing in Central America.
President Tsai Ing-wen, who undertook this trip to strengthen the island's diplomatic ties with its allies, arrived under good escort at the end of the afternoon in a large hotel in Manhattan.
Outside, she was greeted by about 100 supporters waving Taiwanese and American flags, while about 100 Beijing supporters waved Chinese flags across the street.
The president of Taiwan must stay until Thursday in New York before going to Guatemala and Belize.
She will stop on her return to California, where Mr. McCarthy, elected Republican of this state, declared that he would meet her, which the Taiwanese authorities have not confirmed.
Beijing warned on Wednesday that it was "resolutely opposed" to such a meeting, promising to take "firm measures to retaliate" if it took place.
The White House responded that China should not "take the pretext" that Ms. Tsai is in "transit" in the United States to "over-react aggressively around (the question) of the Taiwan Strait".
John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, reaffirmed the "longstanding, unofficial relationship with Taiwan and the United States' one-China policy, which remains unchanged."
China considers the autonomous island as one of its provinces and intends to take it back by force if necessary. In the name of its "one China" principle, no country is supposed to maintain official ties with Beijing and Taipei at the same time.
A meeting would be seen as "a new provocation that will seriously violate the one-China principle, undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," he said. said Zhu Fenglian, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing.
In 2022, a visit to Taiwan by Mr. McCarthy's predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, had already sparked the ire of Beijing.
"External pressure will not hinder our determination" to be active on the international scene, said Ms. Tsai before leaving Taiwan.
Belize and Guatemala are among the last 13 countries to officially recognize Taiwan over Beijing, after Honduras established diplomatic ties with China on Sunday.
Xu Xueyuan, Chargé d'Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Wednesday that he spoke directly with US officials on multiple occasions to warn them that Ms. Tsai's trip was against China's fundamental interests. .
"This alleged transit is a thinly veiled pretext of his real intentions (...) to plead for the independence of Taiwan", declared the diplomat.
"We urge the United States not to continue playing with fire on the Taiwan issue," she told reporters.
"As they say, those who play with fire will perish by fire. This is not a threat," Ms. Xu said again.
Beijing has stepped up military, economic and diplomatic pressure on the island since Ms Tsai came to power in 2016, and has since reclaimed nine of its diplomatic allies.
"Beijing's attempts to seize Taiwan's diplomatic partners will lead Taiwan to develop closer ties with the United States," said James Lee, a specialist in US-Taiwanese relations at Sinica Academy in Taiwan.
Washington, which nevertheless granted its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, is the most powerful ally of the island as well as its main supplier of arms.
According to Lee, "the loss of official relations with third countries will be compensated by the deepening of Taiwan's unofficial relations".
One of Ms. Tsai's main opponents in Taiwan, former President Ma Ying-jeou, was in China on Wednesday, where he called on "both sides" to "avoid war and seek peace". This is the first such trip for a former Taiwanese leader.
Latin America, where China has increased its investments, has become strategic ground in the diplomatic battle that has pitted Taipei against Beijing since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Besides Guatemala and Belize, Taiwan still maintains diplomatic relations with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Paraguay and Haiti, but also with Pacific island nations and the Vatican.
03/30/2023 02:13:43 - New York (AFP) - © 2023 AFP