Kevin McCarthy meets with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen amid Chinese language threats

US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) speaks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as he arrives at…

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a bipartisan congressional delegation are meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Simi Valley, California on Wednesday to escalate simmering US tensions with China.

The Speaker of the Republican House of Representatives is the highest-ranking US official to have met with a Taiwan leader on US soil since 1979.

Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy follows private meetings she held with small groups of US lawmakers last week. On Friday, she met with three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in New York City: Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.

Also on Friday, Tsai met with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in his home state of New York.

In contrast to these low-key meetings, however, McCarthy’s planned afternoon with Tsai will include a group of members of the House of Representatives and will include a joint public appearance covered by the international media.

The meeting has infuriated Chinese Communist Party leaders and led to veiled threats from Beijing towards members of Congress who will be attending the events. China’s government said it plans to take “decisive action” to respond to the “provocation.”

China regards Taiwan as a province of mainland China and regards any attempt by the Taiwanese leadership to act independently of Beijing as a threat to Chinese sovereignty.

Tsai’s week-long trip to the United States is actually unofficial and is described as a “transit” rather than a visit. But in reality, Tsai’s busy schedule of high-level meetings with US lawmakers would rival any official visit by a world leader.

Tsai’s trip to the United States adds new tension to the already fragile US-China relationship, which has been weakened in recent years by Beijing’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea and its aggressive efforts to control Taiwan.

Taiwanese supporters hold signs during a rally in front of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, where Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will spend the night before her meeting with Kevin McCarthy April 4, 2023 in Los Angeles.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

In February, a Chinese reconnaissance balloon flying over the US sparked public outcry until it was shot down by American fighter jets off the east coast.

The following month, a US ban on government devices using the social media app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, drew a furious rebuke from Beijing.

This is an evolving story and will be updated throughout the day.

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