House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, have agreed to meet in California rather than Taiwan, compromising on their long-anticipated visit to keep from provoking China.
Before he ever won the speakership, McCarthy said he would like to visit the island of Taiwan if elected. Now Tsai has persuaded McCarthy to meet instead in the representative’s home state due to the risk of aggressive Chinese response, Financial Times reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the situation.
A senior Taiwanese official said Taiwan gave McCarthy’s team “some intelligence about what the Chinese Communist Party is recently up to and the kinds of threats they pose,” adding that China was “not in a good situation.”
“There might be policies even more irrational than in the past emanating from Beijing,” the Taiwanese official added. “If we can try to control this together, the risks it brings for everybody can be contained better.”
China and Taiwan split in 1949 in a civil war that never officially ended. Since then, China’s openly stated goal of reabsorbing the democratic and capitalist island has grown into one of the world’s most sensitive geopolitical flashpoints.
On Monday, Taiwanese defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned that China’s military was “looking for pretexts like foreign senior officials visiting” to justify taking a more aggressive stance, Financial Times reported.
After then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip in August, the first by a U.S. House Speaker since 1997, China launched multiple days of military drills around the island and sanctioned Pelosi and her family, as reported by the Washington Post.
Tsai is set to visit California and New York in early April during a trip that will also take her to Guatemala and Belize, according to Financial Times. She has previously stopped in multiple U.S. cities as part of trips to other countries in 2018 and 2019.
A delegation of U.S. lawmakers made a five-day visit to Taiwan in February as tensions with China were spiking over a spy balloon that flew over the U.S., which officials have described as part of a broader Chinese spying program.
Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) also recently made his own trip to the island, after which he said “every member of Congress should visit Taiwan,” even though he said that China had warned him his visit would “send wrong signals.”
“I think we’ll see more of this as we push back against the Chinese,” Young said. “It’s certainly not going to deter me.”
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.