China should not 'overreact' to Taiwan president's US stopover: official

AFP , Wednesday 29 Mar 2023

China should not "overreact" and use a stopover in the United States by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as a "pretext" for aggression against the democratically ruled island of Taiwan, a senior US official said early Wednesday.

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington on March 24, 2023.(AP )


"There's absolutely no reason for China to use that as a pretext to overreact or to engage in further coercion directed at Taiwan," a senior administration told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We're going to carry out a transit that is fully consistent with that policy and decades' worth of practice," the official said, adding that Beijing "will not pressure the US government to alter our longstanding practice" on such visits.

Tsai Ing-wen was departing Taiwan on Wednesday for the 10-day trip, stopping in New York and Los Angeles while en route to and from Guatemala and Belize, according to Taiwan's foreign ministry.

The Central American countries are two of just 13 states that officially recognize Taiwan over China. Tsai's trip comes after Honduras said earlier this month that it was switching recognition to Beijing.

China views self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, to be retaken one day -- by force if necessary. Under its "One China" principle, no country may maintain official diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan.

Stopovers in the United States during the long flights have occurred with little notice in the past but are getting increased scrutiny this year amid soaring US-China tensions.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is considering meeting with Tsai during her stop in Los Angeles. This angers Chinese officials but would be a step down from the trip made by Republican McCarthy's Democratic predecessor as speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan itself last year.

Officials say there is "no change" in the US position accepting Taiwan as under Chinese sovereignty, while insisting on the island's right to maintain its democratic governance.

The senior official briefing reporters said that a McCarthy meeting with Tsai would not signal any escalation on the US side.

"Members of Congress have met with the Taiwan president on nearly every transit" by Taiwanese leaders in the past, the official said.

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