The White House on Wednesday warned China against taking any action viewed as threatening Taiwan, in response to fury by Beijing over a trip by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen to the U.S. this week.
The Taiwanese president is transiting through New York and Los Angeles this week ahead of an official, diplomatic mission to Central America. The description of the trip as one that is transit is carefully worded to avoid elevating Tsai’s visit as official, government travel.
“This transit is consistent with our long-standing unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.
“It is Taiwan’s decision to make these transits based on their own travel, transits are not visits, they are private, and they are unofficial.”
Tsai left Taiwan Wednesday morning local time and will land in New York and travel to California. It is the sixth time she has transited through the U.S. since taking office in 2016, Kirby said, “each time without incident,” and said that it was not unusual for her to meet with members of Congress.
She is reportedly expected to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) while in Los Angeles.
But Chinese officials have threatened retaliation if Tsai meets with any U.S. officials, warning of “counter measures” and “concrete actions,” but not identifying any specific responses.
Kirby on Wednesday said, “The People’s Republic of China should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any aggressive activity around the Taiwan Straight.”
There’s “no reason for them to react harshly, or overreact in anyway,” Kirby said.
China views the island of Taiwan as an inalienable part of China and the government in Taipei as a rogue regime and lashes out over perceived moves by the U.S. or other governments that elevate diplomatic relations with the island democracy.
U.S. support for Taiwan is a flashpoint in extremely fraught relations between Washington and Beijing, where the U.S. views China as its most serious challenge and competitor on influencing the global order.
The U.S. discovery of a Chinese spy balloon in late January scuttled a planned trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing that setback efforts to stabilize the relationship that are already under extreme pressure.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, last week, Bloomberg reported, although Kirby would not confirm the conversation.
While President Biden has yet to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kirby said that the administration has had “multiple diplomatic discussions with Beijing about this particular transit, at different levels.”
Source: The Hill