China pledges ‘violent’ action after US-Taiwan meeting

TAIPEI – China on Thursday promised reprisals against Taiwan after a meeting between the speaker of the US House of Representatives and the island’s president, saying the US is on a “wrong and dangerous path”.

Spokesman Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday hosted Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a demonstration of US support for the self-governing island that China claims as its own, along with a bipartisan delegation of more than a dozen US lawmakers.

The Biden administration said Tsai’s visit, the last of half a dozen to the US, was not provocative. However, it appears that the US-China relationship has fallen to an all-time low, and US support for Taiwan is waning, one of the key differences between the two powers.

But the formal trappings of the meeting and the senior rank of some elected officials in the congressional delegation could lead China to view it as an escalation. No speaker on US soil is known to have met with a Taiwanese president since the US severed formal diplomatic relations in 1979.

In response to the meeting, Beijing said in a foreign ministry statement early Thursday morning it would take “firm and vigorous action in defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

It urged the United States “not to continue down the wrong and dangerous path.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were no obvious signs of a large-scale military response as of Thursday afternoon, as China had previously done.

“We will take decisive action to punish the ‘Taiwan Independence’ separatist forces and their actions, and resolutely protect our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement on Thursday morning the Tsai and her political party are labeled separatists.

Chinese ships have been involved in a joint cross-strait patrol and inspection operation that will last three days, state media said Thursday morning. The Fujian Maritime Safety Administration said its ship, the Haixun 06, will inspect cargo ships and others in the waters between Taiwan and China as part of the operation.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said Wednesday night it was tracking the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, which flew through the Bashi Strait to southeastern Taiwan. On Thursday morning, it was pursuing three People’s Liberation Army naval vessels and a fighter jet in the area around the island.

The PLA regularly flies fighter jets to Taiwan and sends naval vessels around the island in a pressure campaign that has escalated in recent years.

Visits to Taiwan by the US Congress have increased in frequency over the past year, with the American Institute in Taipei, the de facto embassy, ​​announcing the arrival of another delegation on Thursday.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chief Michael McCaul of Texas is leading a delegation of eight other lawmakers on a three-day visit to discuss regional security and trade, according to a statement from AIT.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Tsai and McCarthy spoken carefully to avoid unnecessary tension with Beijing. The two, standing side by side in California’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, acknowledged China’s threats to the island’s government.

“America’s support for the people of Taiwan will remain resolute, unwavering and bipartisan,” McCarthy later said at a news conference. He also said US-Taiwan relations are stronger than at any other time in his life.

Tsai said the “unwavering support reassures the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated.”

More than a dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including the third-ranking House Democrat, had joined the meeting.

During the meeting, Tsai and McCarthy spoke about the importance of Taiwan’s self-defense, promoting robust trade and economic ties, and supporting the island’s government’s ability to participate in the international community, Tsai said.

But she also warned: “It’s no secret that today the peace we have preserved and the democracy we have worked hard to earn face unprecedented challenges.”

“We find ourselves once again in a world where democracy is under threat and the urgency of keeping the beacon of liberty burning cannot be underestimated.”

The United States severed official ties with Taiwan in 1979 while formally establishing diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. As part of China’s recognition, the US “One China Policy” recognizes Beijing’s claim on Taiwan but does not support China’s claim, and the US remains Taiwan’s top supplier of military and defense aid.

The US also has a policy of strategic ambiguity, not explicitly saying whether it will come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a conflict with China.

Last summer, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan to meet with Tsai. China has responded to previous trips by Taiwanese presidents to the US and previous trips to Taiwan by senior US officials with demonstrations of military force. After Pelosi’s visit, China responded with its largest live-fire drills in decades, including launching a missile over the island.

Taiwan and China split after a civil war in 1949 and have no official ties, though they are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

Sarah Y. Kim

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