Taiwan president says US bipartisan support shows island “not isolated”

Taiwan president says US bipartisan support shows island “not isolated”

by Romain Fonsegrives

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy welcomed Taiwan’s president in California on Wednesday, in a meeting she said reassured the island’s people they were “not isolated” in the face of rising Chinese anger.

Speaking to reporters after talks with the top Republican, Tsai Ing-wen said the welcome from a large delegation of politicians from both sides of the aisle was proof Taipei had friends in the international community.

“I want to thank Speaker McCarthy for his warm hospitality and for his invitation to bipartisan congressional leaders who have taken time out of their busy schedules to join us today,” she told reporters at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

“Their presence and unwavering support reassure the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated and we are not alone.”

Tsai’s visit to California is technically a stop-over after a trip to Latin America to see two of Taiwan’s dwindling band of official diplomatic allies.

Despite its having been ruled separately for more than 70 years, China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Beijing balks at any official contact Taipei has with other countries.

This week, it warned McCarthy, a California native who is second in line to the US presidency, that he was “playing with fire” by meeting Tsai.

McCarthy, standing in front of a retired Air Force One at the library north of Los Angeles, told Tsai a shared belief in democracy and freedom formed “the bedrock” of an enduring relationship.

“The friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance to the free world, and it is critical to maintain economic freedom peace and regional stability,” he said.

“We will honor our obligations and reiterate our commitment to our shared values behind which all Americans are united.”

Taiwan is a flourishing democracy, with its own military, an independent judiciary and all the trappings of a fully functioning state.

But only a handful of countries acknowledge it as a sovereign nation.

Under a carefully constructed diplomatic fudge, the United States formally recognizes authoritarian Beijing, but is an important backer of Taiwan, and maintains strong unofficial and commercial ties.

Taipei enjoys bipartisan support in the US Congress, and has grown closer to Washington under Tsai’s leadership — much to China’s annoyance.

Support for Taiwan — and disapproval of China — is one of the few issues that unites America’s warring politicians.

Dueling demonstrations from both pro-Beijing and pro-Taipei camps greeted Tsai’s arrival Wednesday, while a small plane flew overhead trailing a banner that read: “One China! Taiwan is part of China!”

Beijing this week said it was “strongly opposed” to McCarthy’s meeting Tsai.

“It seriously violates the One-China principle… and seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken played down the significance of Tsai’s stop in California, and cautioned Beijing against using it as an “excuse to ratchet up tensions.”

“These transits by high level Taiwanese authorities are nothing new,” he told reporters in Brussels, where he was meeting with NATO foreign ministers.

“They are private and unofficial.”

 ‘Resolve to defend ourselves’

Last year, McCarthy’s predecessor, Democrat Nancy Pelosi sparked fury in Beijing by becoming the most senior US politician to visit the island in over two decades.

That prompted Beijing to launch its largest-ever military exercises in waters around Taiwan.

McCarthy had originally planned to go himself, but opted instead to meet Tsai in California.

The decision was viewed as a compromise that would underscore support for Taiwan but avoid inflaming tensions with China.

Tsai’s stop in southern California comes after trips to Guatemala and Belize and after a brief stop in New York last week, where she was greeted by flag-waving Taiwanese expatriates.

“We have demonstrated a firm will and resolve to defend ourselves, that we are capable of managing risks with calm and composure and that we have the ability to maintain regional peace and stability,” she said in New York.

Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the German Marshall Fund, said China had been outspoken about the visit in recent days, and may feel that it has to keep up the rhetoric.

“China has already said some fairly threatening things which suggests to me that they have to respond in some way,” she told AFP, adding that “otherwise (President) Xi Jinping could end up looking weak.”


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