China warned it would issue a “firm” response after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy led a group of lawmakers to a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
The threat is not surprising after the Chinese Communist Party increased its rhetoric against the United States and Taiwan amid news of the meeting in California’s Simi Valley.
China’s foreign ministry condemned the meeting, saying the country would take “effective measures” to respond to Wednesday’s events, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.
McCarthy and Tsai insisted the carefully orchestrated meeting was appropriate because the Taiwanese president is “transiting” through the United States on her way back to her island nation after a visit to Central America.
China warned of “firm and effective measures” after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R) agreed to lead a group of lawmakers to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (L) on Wednesday.
China warned before the meeting that there would be retaliation if McCarthy and Tsai went ahead with the meeting.
But the Speaker brushed off the threats by saying at a press conference with other lawmakers that he would not allow Beijing to dictate where he travels or who he meets.
He also said that the United States should increase and accelerate arms sales to Taiwan.
Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, McCarthy said his meeting with President Tsai is an effort to prevent conflict as China tries to double down on the small island nation in the China Sea as its territory.
Despite McCarthy’s warning from China, the Speaker said he would not be deterred. He also said he is considering a trip to Taiwan in the future with another bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said earlier today that coinciding with Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy, a Chinese aircraft carrier strike group appeared in the waters off the island’s southeastern coast.
Speaker McCarthy led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to a meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.
McCarthy (right) and Tsai (left) held meetings Wednesday morning before making joint statements to the press, followed by a news conference with the Speaker and a group of parliamentarians from both parties.
The military exercise has heightened China’s threats about US support for Taiwan after the Chinese Communist Party warned of unspecified retaliation if the meeting went ahead.
“My first message – there is no need for revenge,” McCarthy told reporters gathered outside the library in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday.
McCarthy’s Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, praised him for meeting him and showing bipartisan support for Taiwan.
“Today’s meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy deserves commendation for its bipartisan leadership and engagement, and for its distinguished and historic venue,” Pelosi wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
The Speaker also said that China needs to recognize his position as the top legislator in the US House of Representatives and realize that they cannot dictate where he goes.
The only thing I would say to China, too, at any given time – I am the Speaker of the House. There’s nowhere China will tell me where I can go or who I can talk to, whether I’m an enemy or whether I’m a friend,” he added. “I am not the general manager of the Houston Rockets.”
McCarthy said the Biden administration has signaled to him and other lawmakers that they want to continue sending weapons to Taiwan and are committed to helping speed up the process.
“I think this administration, and my contacts with them as well, understands the importance of accelerating weapons delivery systems,” McCarthy said, adding when asked if he thinks they need to do more: “I don’t feel the same differences based on your question.
And I believe in President Reagan’s mantra—”peace through strength”—and deterrence, “the claim that sending arms will help prevent China from thinking it can bully and take Taiwan under its ‘One China’ policy.”
Speaking in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall in the Reagan Library, McCarthy said he would not allow China to dictate where he travels or who he meets and speaks with in response to questions about threats of retaliation.
Security guards separate Taiwan supporters as they confront anti-Taiwan independence protesters outside the California hotel where Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is staying.
Asked if the administration should do more than send arms and increase trade, McCarthy took charge and said it was the job of Congress to act.
McCarthy said: “The one thing I’ve always believed in – we must continue to communicate.” I think from the policy makers here, the more we can speak with one voice, the more I think China will understand where we stand. And most importantly, it will help them understand, not to send a balloon over our heads, not to use the methods of an authoritarian bully – it will not go far.
However, McCarthy acknowledged that the ups and downs in the administration over the past few decades had sent a message to China that the US position on Taiwanese autonomy was up for debate.
“The idea of America in recent years has fluctuated around administrations,” he said, “I think it sent the wrong message to China.”
He said a consistent message must be sent from the White House and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., that they stand with Taiwan.
Tsai did not join the legislators at the press conference after their meetings, but did make brief remarks to the press thanking McCarthy for showing congressional support for Taiwan’s autonomy.
“Members here today make it clear – we take our support for the people of Taiwan very seriously, and we are determined to speak with one voice,” McCarthy said at the press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “The bond between the people of the United States and Taiwan has never been stronger in my life.”
Speaking briefly after McCarthy who was House No. 3 Democrat Pete Aguilar, China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher, China Select Committee Democratic ranking member Raja Krishnamurthy and Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith.
President Tsai shakes hands with Iowa Rep. Ashley Henson before meeting with a bipartisan group of parliamentarians led by McCarthy
Speaker McCarthy greets President Tsai at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California on Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Those who did not speak at the press conference were Republican Representatives Ashley Henson of Iowa. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana; John Curtis from Utah; Carlos Jimenez Florida. Trent Kelly from Mississippi; John Molinar of Michigan; Adrian Smith from Nebraska; Michelle Steel in California and Rob Whitman in Virginia.
The Democrats’ slate was slightly smaller with Reps. Julia Brownlee of California; Seth Moulton from Massachusetts; Haley Stephens, Michigan; and Richie Torres from New York.
During talks with President Tsai and her delegation on Wednesday morning, McCarthy said lawmakers were able to gain insight into actions they can take to help Taiwan amid growing threats from China.
This includes three things – continuing arms sales, promoting economic cooperation and promoting shared values, such as democracy and freedom.
“We covered the crucial ways to strengthen our bond,” McCarthy said.
“Based on our conversations, it is clear that several actions are necessary,” the spokesperson added. First, we must continue arms sales to Taiwan and make sure that these sales reach Taiwan in a very timely manner. Secondly, we must strengthen our economic cooperation, especially with regard to trade and technology. Third, we must continue to promote our shared values on the global stage.