BEIJING-Taiwan’s relationship with the United States has “never been closer,” its President Tsai Ing-wen said after arriving in New York City Thursday, as Beijing warned her visit could lead to “serious confrontation” between China and the US. Taiwan faced “tremendous challenges,” Tsai said from the city, where she is making the first of two planned stopovers in the United States on either side of an official visit to Central America.
“We know that we are stronger when we stand together in solidarity with fellow democracies. Taiwan cannot be isolated and we do not take friendship for granted,” Tsai said at a banquet with members of the Taiwanese-American community, according to footage from CNN’s Taiwan affiliate SET TV. Tsai’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China and has already sparked sharp condemnation from Beijing – which claims democratic Taiwan as its territory, despite never having controlled it. Tsai’s US transit could lead to a “serious” confrontation in the US-China relationship and have a “severe impact” on their ties, China’s charge d’affaires Xu Xueyuan told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. “What the US has done seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xu said, adding that the US should bear “all consequences.”
Tsai’s travels have been under particular scrutiny following reports that she will meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during one of her unofficial stopovers in the US – a potential event Beijing has vowed to “resolutely fight back” against should it go ahead. Taiwan has not confirmed such a meeting nor provided details of Tsai’s itinerary while in the US.
Beijing launched extensive, days-long military exercises around the island last August, following a visit from then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei. Pelosi was the highest ranked American official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and the trip sparked accusations from Beijing that the US was changing the nature of its relationship with Taiwan – a claim US officials have repeatedly refuted.