State Department: 'Transits by High-Level Taiwan Authorities Are Not Visits'

( – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on Wednesday, on a so-called “transit” stopover on her way to Central America. She plans to depart for Guatemala and Belize on Saturday. China is furious.

China, according to its foreign ministry spokesperson on Wednesday, “firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the US and the Taiwan region,” including a possible meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Tsai, saying it violates the one-China policy.

But the State Department brushed aside China’s concerns on Wednesday:

“Transits by high level Taiwan authorities are not visits,” spokesman Vendant Patel said.

He said such visits are “private and unofficial, and they are not new.”


“Every Taiwan president has transited the United States,” Patel noted.

“President Tsai has transited the U.S. six times since taking office in 2016. This will be her seventh transit. These transits have always been consistent with longstanding US practice, consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan, and consistent with the US one-China policy, which remains unchanged.”

Patel said the U.S. does not support Taiwan independence, “and we continue to expect that cross-strait differences be resolved through peaceful means.”

He noted that a McCarthy-Tsai meeting, which might take place in California, would not be unusual, since high-level Taiwan officials have “typically met with members of Congress, which is, of course, a separate and co-equal branch of government.”

But China on Wednesday warned of “countermeasures” if U.S. officials meet with Tsai:

“We firmly oppose any visit by leader of the Taiwan authorities to the U.S in any name or under whatever pretext. And we firmly oppose the U.S. having any form of contact with the Taiwan authorities, which violates the one-China principle,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“China has repeatedly protested to the US side on Tsai’s so-called stopover in the US. Past mistakes do not justify any new mistake. Repeating a mistake does not make it legitimate.

“The trip is not so much a ‘transit”,’ but an attempt to seek breakthroughs and propagate ‘Taiwan independence.’

“The issue is not about China overreacting, but the U.S. egregiously conniving at and supporting ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists.”

The Foreign Ministry said China will “closely monitor the developments and firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“There is no reason for China to “overreact,” Patel told the State Department press briefing:

“As I said previously, we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side. We don’t support Taiwan independence, and we continue to expect that cross-strait differences be resolved through peaceful means.”

A reporter noted that Tsai’s “transit” is more than a typical stopover and exit. The reporter said he didn’t recall another Taiwan leader “coming to New York, having meetings, going to Central America, coming back in, going to L.A., potentially giving a speech, maybe having more meetings, potentially with the speaker. This seems like more than just, quote, a ‘transit.’

“Could that not be why it is deemed provocative by Beijing?” the reporter asked.

“This is, in fact, a transit,” Patel insisted:

“As it relates to the specifics of the president’s schedule, I will let her and her team speak to that. I don’t have any assessment to offer there on the ins and outs of the flights or anything like that. But broadly, this is — continues to be something that is longstanding with US policy.

“And again, we don’t intend to change the status quo and there’s no reason to — to overreact to something like this.”

As for McCarthy’s possible meeting with Tsai, Patel said, “Those are decisions for — for individual members of Congress and their offices to make.”

Patel said again that the U.S. “is not intending to change the (one China) status quo.”

Sen. Warner: McCarthy-Tsai meeting would be ‘very appropriate’

Appearing on MSNBC on Wednesday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the intelligence committee, said he thinks it’s “very appropriate if Speaker McCarthy wants to meet with the Taiwanese president.”

“It is, again, one of the reasons why we have to be successful in stopping Putin in Ukraine, because, if Putin is successful in Ukraine, not only does he look to Poland, and potentially the Baltic states, but it gives President Xi in China, in a sense, more of a green light to try to acquire and invade or take over Taiwan.

“President Xi has not — unlike most other Chinese former leaders, who at least kind of allowed some level of status quo, he has made it explicitly clear that he believes it’s part of his destiny, not unlike Putin with Ukraine, that he has to have the PRC reacquire Taiwan. And I think it’s appropriate that American leadership meets with the Taiwanese leaders.

“And, again, we are actively trying to help Taiwan become more self-sufficient, particularly in defensive areas.”


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