US speaker McCarthy plans to meet Taiwan president Tsai in US – reports

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Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, plans to meet US House speaker Kevin McCarthy on a visit to the United States in coming weeks, according to sources speaking to the Reuters news agency.

The Financial Times first reported the plans to meet in California, a move that could replace the Republican speaker’s anticipated but sensitive trip to the democratically governed island claimed by China.

When asked about Beijing’s possible reaction to a reported meeting, Taiwan’s defence minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, said he was not aware of a planned meeting, but would not allow “repeated provocations.”

China staged war games around Taiwan last August after a visit to Taipei by then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The Chinese communists use any reason to send troops,” Chiu said on Tuesday. “But we won’t just say ‘bring it on’. We will take a peaceful and rational approach.”

Although it hopes this does not happen, Taiwan’s military is prepared to fight, he added.

“If the Chinese communists move again, the armed forces’ job is to fight,” Chiu said. “We won’t allow repeated provocations against us. We can’t accept that.”

Ahead of the Republican Speaker’s anticipated trip to Taiwan, sources who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Tsai had been invited to speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library during a transit through California on a planned visit to Central America, and that McCarthy was likely to meet her in the United States.

One of the sources said should the US meeting go forward – likely in April – it did not necessarily rule out McCarthy visiting Taiwan in the future.

McCarthy’s office did not respond immediately to Reuters’ questions on the matter, including whether the planned meeting was an effort to avoid raising tensions with China, which was angered by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.

During a CNBC interview on Monday, McCarthy declined to answer whether he would visit Taiwan, saying he would announce any travel plans when he had them.

Four other sources – including US officials and people with knowledge of the US and Taiwan administrations’ thinking – said both sides were deeply uneasy that a future visit by McCarthy would severely increase tensions across the Taiwan Strait at a time when the island is preparing for its own presidential election early next year.

The Reagan Library and China’s embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington said it had “no information to share” when asked about the meeting.

“In general terms, arrangements for President Tsai’s visits to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and transits through the United States are carried out in line with the usual practice,” it told Reuters.

China views engagements between US and Taiwanese officials as a breach of its sovereignty, a perceived slight sharpened by the fact that the Speaker of the House is second in line to the US presidency.

Read More: US speaker McCarthy plans to meet Taiwan president Tsai in US – reports

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