U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, becoming the most senior U.S. figure to meet a Taiwanese leader on U.S. soil in decades and stressed the need to accelerate arms deliveries to Taiwan in the face of rising threats from China.
McCarthy – the third highest ranking official in the U.S. leadership hierarchy – and other Republican and Democratic lawmakers met Tsai at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California despite threats of retaliation from China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own
A China foreign ministry spokesperson quickly denounced the meeting, accusing the United States of colluding with separatists seeking “Taiwan independence” and saying that it has been breaching its commitments over the island.
China considers Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to bring the island under its control by force if necessary.
Maritime authorities in China’s Fujian province launched a three-day special patrol and inspection operation in the Taiwan Strait that includes moves to board ships. Taiwan said it had lodged a strong protest with China about the move.
Tsai thanked the U.S. Congress for standing by Taiwan when democracy was under threat and cited former U.S. President Reagan saying that “to preserve peace, we must be strong.”
The meeting came at a time of deteriorating U.S.-Chinese relations – the worst since the countries established diplomatic relations in 1979, according to many analysts.
Concerns are rising among Western officials that China, which staged war games around the island last August following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could attempt to take Taiwan by force in the coming years.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said a Chinese aircraft carrier group was in the waters off the island’s southeast coast ahead of the meeting between Tsai and McCarthy.