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29 Mar, 2023 18:38

Taiwanese leader defies China over US visit

President Tsai Ing-wen has dismissed Beijing’s threat of retaliation as she begins her trip to the Americas
Taiwanese leader defies China over US visit

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has begun a ten-day trip to the US and Latin America after vowing that the self-governing island will continue to engage with countries around the world and won’t be cowed by Chinese threats of retaliation.

“External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world,” Tsai told reporters on Wednesday, before boarding a flight to New York. “We are calm and confident, will neither yield nor provoke.”

Tsai made her comments after a spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, warned that the visit would escalate tensions between China and its breakaway province if the Taiwanese leader met with US officials during her travels. “If she has contact with US House Speaker [Kevin] 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. We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back.”

The Taiwanese president will reportedly also travel to Belize and Guatemala after making her first stop in New York. She’s then expected to stop in Los Angeles before returning to Taiwan. Government officials in Taipei told the Financial Times earlier this month that Tsai will meet with McCarthy – the top Republican and the third-ranking person in the US government – while she’s in California.

“Taiwan will firmly walk on the road of freedom and democracy and go into the world,” Tsai said on Wednesday. “Although this road is rough, Taiwan is not alone.”

Belize and Guatemala are among only 13 countries in the world that recognize Taiwan as a separate nation and have full diplomatic relations with the island. Another Latin American country, Honduras, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan this week so it could establish ties with mainland China.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since last August, when McCarthy’s predecessor as US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, made a visit to Taiwan in defiance of warnings from Chinese officials. China responded by launching unprecedented military drills in the Taiwan Strait and cutting off defense ties with the US.

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