China on Sunday vowed it would take “strong measures” as Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te stopped in the US on his way to Paraguay, one of the few nations that has diplomatic relations with Taipei.
“The US and the Taiwan authorities arranged for Lai to engage in political activities in the US in the name of having a ‘stopover.’ This seriously violates the one-China principle, gravely undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Lai stopped in New York on his way to Paraguay and will stop in San Francisco when he travels back to Taiwan. The US and Taiwan have defended the travel plans, saying there’s precedent for Taiwanese officials to stop in the US. But Lai’s trip comes as US-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, in large part due to the US increasing its support for Taiwan.
The trip is likely also more sensitive for Beijing since Lai is the presidential candidate for Taiwan’s ruling independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party and is leading the polls for the 2024 election. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Lai “clings stubbornly to the separatist position for ‘Taiwan independence'” and called him a “troublemaker.”
Earlier this year, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in California on her way back to Taiwan, provoking major Chinese military drills. The talks marked the highest-level meeting between US and Taiwanese officials inside the US since Washington severed relations with Taipei in 1979.
House Republicans have called on Vice President Kamala Harris to meet with Lai while he’s in the US, but there’s no sign that she will or that Lai will meet with any high-level US officials.
Lai delivered a speech in New York on Monday and took a defiant tone in the face of pressure from Beijing. “No matter how great the threat of authoritarianism is to Taiwan, we absolutely will not be scared nor cower, we will uphold the values of democracy and freedom,” he said.