WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - Taiwan's self-ruled president has begun a tour of the United States and Central America. The visit is meant to show that Taiwan has allies in its fight against China.
Taiwan carefully planned President Tsai's visits to the United States and, as usual, avoided any meetings with senior U.S. officials in Washington in order to contain China, which had warned of a powerful but unspecified reaction.
Tsai was due to spend Thursday at New York, but little information about the trip has been made public.
A senior Chinese diplomat, Xu Xueyan (ambassador charge d'affaires), in Washington, noted that a meeting between Tsai, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was expected elsewhere in the United States. She said that the meeting would have a serious impact on U.S. China relations and would be a "serious serious serious" event.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he hopes that any U.S. official meeting with the President unofficially conveys the message that American support for Taiwan "is strong and unequivocal'.
Taiwan is a key partner of Washington in the Indo-Pacific region and a major beneficiary of U.S. Military Aid. The U.S. and Taiwan, along with their regional allies, are increasing their military preparedness to deter or defend against any future military actions by China. China claims the island for its own.
Beijing launched missiles and deployed warships along the Taiwan Strait median line in response to Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last August. It also simulated a blockade on the island. China temporarily suspended the dialogue with the U.S. over climate change and other important issues, and restricted military to military communication with the Pentagon.
Tsai made six trips to the U.S. while she was president, where she met with members of Congress as well as members of the Taiwanese Diaspora. Administration officials have stressed that Tsai's upcoming trip, which Taiwan refers to as a "transit", is in line what she has done and with her predecessors in the past.
Tsai’s "transit" is in line with the United States’ one-China policy and our longstanding, unofficial relationship with Taiwan, said White House National Security spokesman John Kirby to reporters on Wednesday.
Kirby stated that the People's Republic of China shouldn't use this transit to intensify any aggressive activities around the Taiwan Strait. The United States and China disagree on Taiwan. We have been managing these differences for over 40 years.
Tsai said to reporters before she boarded her plane for the United States, "Taiwan is resolutely going to safeguard the values and freedom of democracy."
She said that external pressure would not hinder her resolve to engage the world.
Tsai will meet Laura Rosenberger, the chair of the American Institute in Taiwan. AIT is a nonprofit organization run by the U.S. Government that maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan.
Taiwan will benefit from her stops in Central America, as Honduras switched diplomatic relations to China this month. Tsai claimed that China was using "dollar diplomacy" to lure Honduras away. Only 13 countries recognize Taiwan.
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin, chairman of the House Select Committee on China said that Tsai's visit was an opportunity for her to 'communicate to Congress the importance of the partnership between the U.S.A. and Taiwan, and the need to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Xu, a Chinese diplomat at Washington, claimed that Taiwan and the U.S. had other goals for her visit.
She said: 'It is clear to everyone that her so-called transit was a disguise for her real intention to seek breakthrough and advocate Taiwan independence", she said.
As China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, seeks to expand regional and global influence, tensions have increased between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. claimed that a Chinese spy ballon was flying across the U.S. during the winter, which heightened Americans' perception of China as a threat. China claims it was an off-course research balloon.