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Updated Apr 5, 2023, 4:21pm EDT
politicssecurityNorth America

McCarthy calls US-Taiwan bond strong amid high tensions with China

REUTERS/David Swanson
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The News

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy led a bipartisan meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, underscoring broad U.S. support for Taipei at a time of high tensions with China.

The meeting took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Tsai arrived just before 10 a.m. local time and McCarthy greeted her outside the building, with the two shaking hands. Tsai was joined by Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s top official in the U.S.

“I believe that our bond is stronger now than at any time or point in my lifetime,” McCarthy said in remarks alongside Tsai following the meeting.

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“The friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance to the free world and it is critical to maintain economic freedom, peace, and regional stability,” he said.

In her own brief remarks, Tsai thanked McCarthy and the other lawmakers, adding that “their presence and unwavering support reassure the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated and we are not alone.”

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The meeting demonstrates robust bipartisan support for Taiwan amid rising concerns about a Chinese invasion.

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While neither McCarthy nor Tsai mentioned China specifically in their remarks, they alluded to Beijing’s threats to stability in the Asia Pacific region and Taiwan specifically.

“It is no secret that today the peace that we have maintained and the democracy which we have worked hard to build are facing unprecedented challenges,” Tsai said alongside McCarthy at the joint statement.

“In the discussion with congressional leaders this morning, I reiterated Taiwan’s commitment to defending the peaceful status quo where the people of Taiwan may continue to thrive in a free and open society,” she said.

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In addition to McCarthy, Tsai met with Rep. Pete Aguilar, who is a member of Democratic House leadership; the leaders of the new China select committee, Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.; House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.; and about a dozen other House lawmakers from both parties.

China, which claims control of Taiwan, has reacted angrily to Tsai’s plans to meet with McCarthy and threatened to retaliate. The White House has urged Beijing not to “overreact.”

Tsai transited through the U.S. on her way to and from official meetings in Guatemala and Belize. Biden administration officials do not plan to meet with the Taiwanese president and have sought to downplay the significance of the visit.

“There’s nothing atypical about it and there’s no reason for the Chinese to overreact,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this week, noting that Tsai in addition to previous presidents of Taiwan have made similar stops in the U.S.

Tsai has kept a low profile on her stops in the U.S, which also included a brief appearance in New York last week. Neither she nor McCarthy took questions at their joint appearance.

Still, the California appearance is Tsai’s most sensitive stop on her travels and is the highest-level meeting between a president of Taiwan and a U.S. official on U.S. soil in decades. It is attracting enormous media attention, with reporters and cameras swarming the Reagan library in Simi Valley. A throng of pro-Taiwan demonstrators also stationed themselves outside the building.

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Step Back

The meeting took place amid broader tensions between the U.S. and China.

McCarthy set up the China select committee, chaired by Gallagher, to probe threats from Beijing and assess U.S. competitiveness with China.

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