The visit is a historic first for US House Speaker McCarthy and Taiwan President Tsai

The United States severed official relations with Taiwan in 1979, when it formally established diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. Although the US embraces the “One China” policy, it remains Taiwan’s main supplier of military and defense aid.

The meeting with McCarthy, who is second only to the president as speaker of the House of Representatives, is Tsai’s highest-level visit to the US on a tour that included a stop in New York last week.

Wednesday’s private event, which is expected to include Republican and Democratic lawmakers, was held in close quarters, a reminder of the pressure on the island’s government under China’s watchful eye. It will be the first known visit between a House speaker and Taiwan’s president on American soil since the United States severed official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, experts said.

“It’s especially an opportunity to show how strong the relationship is with the United States,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund’s Indo-Pacific program.

“Certainly Congress is part of it,” he said. Since the lack of formal diplomatic relations greatly limits any interaction between Taiwan and US leaders, “it becomes even more important that they have meetings with members of Congress.”

The Chinese government expressed its displeasure ahead of Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy and threatened to retaliate against any contact with the House speaker. The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it would monitor developments and “resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

McCarthy, a sandwich shop operator in Bakersfield, Calif., before serving as a congressional aide and being elected to Congress, is not known for extensive foreign policy experience.

Unlike Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who used her speaker’s baton as a calling card to bring US influence and aid around the world, McCarthy is focusing her speech more on the domestic needs of Americans.

While McCarthy led the congressional delegation’s overseas trips, such as to Israel and Normandy, France, to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II, and expressed a desire to visit Taiwan, he had not yet made his plans. travel.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022 drew sharp rebuke from China with live-fire drills that included firing missiles at the island. In December, China sent planes and ships to Taiwan in a 24-hour show of force.

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