Taiwan confirmed on Tuesday that President Tsai Ing-wen will visit the US on her way to Central America but did not say if she will hold talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
According to media reports, Taiwan convinced McCarthy to meet with Tsai in California instead of in Taipei over concerns his trip would provoke more Chinese military pressure. When former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan in August 2022, it sparked the largest-ever Chinese military drills.
Taiwanese officials said Tsai’s delegation will leave Taipei on March 29 and will stop in California and New York before heading to Belize and Guatemala. Tsai has made similar visits to the US, most recently in 2019.
Despite the precedent, Tsai’s trip still risks provoking a response from Beijing as US-China relations are at their lowest point in decades due largely to tensions over Taiwan, and a reaction is more likely if Tsai meets with McCarthy. For his part, McCarthy previously said he planned to meet with Tsai when she was in the US, and he also hasn’t ruled out eventually making the trip to Taiwan.
The Biden administration has warned China against a harsh reaction to Tsai’s trips, citing the precedent of previous visits. “We see no reason for Beijing to turn this transit, again which is consistent with long-standing US policy, into anything other than what it is,” a Biden administration official said in comments to The Wall Street Journal.
Beijing has made clear that it opposes Tsai’s plans to visit the US. “We strongly oppose any form of official interaction between the US and Taiwan, strongly oppose any US visit by the leader of the Taiwan authorities regardless of the rationale or pretext,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on Tuesday.