Taiwan’s president is beginning a swing through the United States and Central America, a visit aimed at showing that her self-ruled island has allies as it faces a rising threat from China. Taiwan was carefully calibrating President Tsai Ing-wen's stops in the United States, and, as always, forgoing any official meetings with senior US leaders in Washington, in an effort to contain what China said would be a strong but as yet unspecified response, the AP reports. Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday and was scheduled to spend Thursday in the city, but few details of the trip were made public.
A senior Chinese diplomat in Washington, embassy charge d'affaires Xu Xueyan, pointed to an expected meeting between Tsai and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy elsewhere in the country. The meeting would have serious repercussions overall and a "serious, serious, serious" impact on US-China relations, she said in a virtual session with reporters on Wednesday. Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hopes any US officials meeting unofficially with the president convey that American support for Taiwan is "strong and unequivocal.”
Taiwan is an important partner for Washington in the Indo-Pacific and a major recipient of US military aid. Last August, Beijing responded to the visit of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan by launching missiles, deploying warships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, and simulating a blockade of the island. Tsai has made six trips to the US during her presidency, meeting with members of Congress and members of the Taiwanese diaspora. Administration officials are underscoring that her coming trip, which Taiwan calls a “transit,” is in line with what she and her predecessors have done in the past. (Earlier this month, Honduras switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.)