TAIPEI – China deployed warships through Taiwanese waters on Thursday, vowing a “determined response” to the island’s president visiting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with McCarthy in Los Angeles on Wednesday, expressing gratitude for the encounter, which she said demonstrated that her country was not isolated on the international stage.
China had repeatedly warned both parties that the conference should not take place, and had stationed an aircraft carrier near Taiwan hours before the discussions began.
Three more warships have been spotted in the waterways separating Taiwan from mainland China, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense on Thursday morning.
According to the government, an anti-submarine helicopter also crossed the island’s air defense identification zone.
Despite the fact that Taiwan has been controlled separately for more than 70 years, China regards it as part of its territory and has pledged to reclaim it one day, by force if necessary.
Following a visit to the island by McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, in August last year, China conducted its largest-ever air and sea maneuvers surrounding Taiwan.
In August, China sent warships, missiles, and fighter jets into the waters and sky surrounding Taiwan.
So far, its reaction to the McCarthy meeting has been on a considerably lower level.
Tsai stated that she was greeted warmly by legislators from both sides of the political spectrum in the United States.
“Their presence and unwavering support reassure Taiwanese people that we are not isolated or alone,” she told reporters at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Tsai’s journey to California was nominally a stopover on her way to see two of Taiwan’s diminishing band of formal diplomatic allies in Latin America.
China issued a harsh denunciation hours after the Tsai-McCarthy meeting.
“In response to the seriously erroneous acts of collusion between the United States and Taiwan,” China’s foreign ministry declared, “China will take resolute and effective measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
On Thursday morning, however, there were no evidence of increased military activity on Pingtan island in southeastern China, which is home to a People’s Liberation Army camp and is known as the mainland’s closest point to Taiwan.
Following Pelosi’s visit last year, AFP correspondents on Pingtan observed missile launches and army helicopters flying over the island.
McCarthy, who is second in line to the presidency of the United States, stated that a common conviction in freedom and democracy underpins a connection that is “of profound importance to the free world.”
He had intended to go himself, but instead chose to meet Tsai in California.
The decision was seen as a compromise that would highlight support for Taiwan while avoiding inflaming tensions with China.
McCarthy said that US arms sales to Taiwan, which irritate Chinese authorities, would continue, citing a “proven strategy” to deter aggression.
“And we know from history that the best way to do that is to supply people with weapons that allow them to deter war,” he said.
“It is a critical lesson that we learned from Ukraine, that simply imposing sanctions in the future will not deter someone” who wants to fight war.
Despite possessing all of the trappings of a fully functional state, only a few countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Under a skillfully crafted diplomatic ruse, the US legally recognizes autocratic Beijing while remaining an essential supporter of Taiwan and maintaining significant unofficial and commercial links.
Taipei has bipartisan support in the US Congress and has grown closer to Washington under Tsai, much to China’s chagrin.
Pelosi hailed the California meeting, which was attended by more than a dozen lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, on Wednesday.
“Today’s meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy is to be commended for its leadership, bipartisan participation, and distinguished and historic venue,” she stated.
Tsai’s term as Taiwan’s president expires in 2024, and her party faces a challenge from opponents perceived as closer to Beijing.
Even as China poaches allies and presses other governments to isolate Taipei, she has positioned herself as a champion of the status quo – de facto but unspoken independence.
“We have found ourselves once again in a world where democracy is under threat, and the importance of keeping the beacon of freedom shining cannot be overstated,” she told reporters.
“Taiwan is grateful to have the United States of America on all sides as we confront our time’s unique challenges.”