US urges China against ‘overreacting’ to Taiwan president transit

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen’s stopover in the US is ‘normal’ and consistent with long-standing US policy, White House says.

Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen addresses the media on March 29 before her departure to New York, as she makes her way to Guatemala and Belize [Ann Wang/Reuters]

The White House has urged China to avoid “overreacting” to a planned stopover in the United States by Taiwan’s president, calling the transit “normal”.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stressed on Wednesday that the transit by President Tsai Ing-wen is in line with US policy, which acknowledges China’s claim over the self-ruled island.

“This transit is consistent with our long-standing unofficial relationship with Taiwan and it is consistent with the United States’ ‘One China’ policy, which remains unchanged,” he said.

“There is no reason — none — for the Chinese to overreact here,” Kirby added, noting that Washington is hoping for a “normal, uneventful” transit by Tsai.

Tsai is due to travel through New York on Wednesday and pass through Los Angeles in April as part of a trip to and from Guatemala and Belize. She is scheduled to return to Taipei on April 7.

The Taiwanese president has passed through the US before, most recently in 2019. But this time she is expected to meet US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California, a move that will likely draw Beijing’s ire.

Kirby said he cannot speak for the top Republican legislator or his agenda.

Beijing, however, has repeatedly warned against the meeting. Zhu Fenglian, the spokesperson of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters earlier this week that Tsai’s US “transits” went beyond simply waiting at airports and hotels. She claimed they were devised to allow Tsai to meet US officials and legislators.

“If she has contact with US House Speaker McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the ‘One China’ principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she said.

“We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” Zhu added, without giving details.

Beijing staged war games around Taiwan last August when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

On Wednesday, the White House warned against making similar moves in the wake of Tsai’s trip. “The People’s Republic of China should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any activity around the Taiwan strait,” Kirby said.

Under the “One China” policy, the US acknowledges the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing over the Republic of China (ROC) in Taipei as the sole and legal government of China.

But Washington takes no position on Taiwan’s sovereignty, contending that the island’s future should be determined by peaceful means.

This policy is different than the PRC’s “One China” principle, under which Beijing insists that Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory.

The US does not officially recognise Taiwan but has trade and security relations with the island.

Ties between Beijing and Washington have soured over numerous points of tension in recent years, including trade issues, the status of Taiwan, China’s claims in the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The two countries’ ties were further strained earlier this year when the US shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon that traversed its territory.

China insisted the aircraft was a weather balloon that strayed off its course and condemned the decision to bring it down.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies