WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration is announcing in advance that Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s expected unofficial stop in the United States would be in line with recent precedent and should not be used by Beijing as an excuse to step up aggressive activities in the Taiwan Strait.
In recent weeks, senior US officials in Washington and Beijing have emphasized to their Chinese counterparts that transit visits to the United States during the Taiwanese president’s wider international travels have been routine in recent years, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
In such visits in recent years, Tsai has met with members of Congress and the Taiwanese diaspora and was welcomed by the chairman of the American Taiwan Institute, a US government-run nonprofit that has unofficial ties to Taiwan.
Tsai passed through the United States six times between 2016 and 2019 before slowing international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. In reaction to those visits, China has rhetorically lashed out at China and Taiwan.
The Biden administration is trying to avoid a repeat of China’s fierce response that came after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan last year.
After Pelosi’s visit in August, Beijing launched missiles over Taiwan, deployed warships across the middle line of the Taiwan Strait and conducted military exercises near the island. Beijing has also suspended climate talks with the US and restricted communications between the military and the Pentagon.
Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as an encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a move US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi was the highest-ranking elected US official to visit the island since President Newt Gingrich in 1997. Under the “one China” policy, the US recognizes Beijing as the government of China and has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but has maintained Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific .
US officials are increasingly worried about China’s long-held goals of reunifying Taiwan with the mainland and the possibility of war over Taiwan. Beijing claims the self-governing island democracy as part of its territory. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governed U.S. relations with the island, does not require the U.S. to intervene militarily if China invades, but calls for U.S. policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status from Beijing.
Difficult relations between the US and China have only gotten more complicated since Pelosi’s visit.
Last month, President Joe Biden ordered a Chinese spy balloon out of the sky after it flew over the continental United States. And the Biden administration has said in recent weeks that US intelligence findings show China is considering sending weapons to Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine, but there is no evidence to suggest Beijing has decided to continue supplying Moscow.
The Biden administration postponed a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the balloon controversy, but has indicated it would like to get such a visit back on track.
The White House also said Monday that officials are discussing with China possible visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo focused on economic issues. Biden also said he expects to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said “keeping those lines of communication open” is still valuable.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi met in Moscow on Monday, the first face-to-face meeting between the allies since Russia launched its invasion more than a year ago.
Taiwan’s government said earlier this month that Tsai had planned stops in New York and Southern California during an upcoming wider international trip, but has yet to release details on when she will travel.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, said he would meet with Tsai when she is in the US and did not rule out traveling to Taiwan in support.