Speaker McCarthy Meets With Taiwan President Tsai, Defying Threats From China
Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, defying threats from China attempting to pressure and internationally isolate the island from the Chinese Communist Party rule.

McCarthy hosted a bipartisan meeting with Tsai at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library out of Los Angeles with dozens of lawmakers, including the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party chair and ranking members Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL).

During a joint press conference with Tsai, the House speaker said he believes U.S.-Taiwan relations are stronger than ever. However, as tensions worldwide have reached their highest point since the end of the Cold War, McCarthy condemned authoritarian leaders for provoking needless conflicts with violence and fear.

“I am the speaker of the House,” McCarthy told reporters, according to The New York Times. “There is no place that China’s going to tell me where I can go and who I can speak to, whether you be foe or whether you be friend.”

McCarthy said he does not intend to escalate tensions with China. However, he called for continuing arms sales to Taiwan, enhancing economic cooperation, and promoting shared values with the island.

Taiwanese President Tsai thanked House members for supporting her country’s independence.

“Their presence and unwavering support reassure the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated and we are not alone,” Tsai said. “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.”

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense said the nation opposes the “transit” of President Tsai into the U.S. or any official exchange between the two countries, saying such a move “seriously violates” the one-China principle.

“In response to the seriously wrong actions of the US-Taiwan collusion, China will take resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesperson said in a news release.

After the meeting, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) told reporters that the U.S. is attempting to counter China’s influence.

“We are not afraid,” Gallagher said, according to POLITICO. “We support our friends in Taiwan. We’re going to keep saying that whenever we have the opportunity, and we’re going to turn those words into action this Congress — bipartisan action — because Taiwan is a small, but very bright candle burning at the edge of a vast authoritarian darkness.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commended McCarthy in rare fashion for meeting with Tsai.

“Today’s meeting between President Tsai of Taiwan and Speaker McCarthy is to be commended for its leadership, its bipartisan participation and its distinguished and historic venue,” Pelosi said in a statement reported by The Hill.

Pelosi visited Taiwan last summer despite Chinese officials warning against her trip overseas.

China’s Communist Party, which views the self-governed democratic island as its territory, considered the visit a huge affront, and even the Biden administration, which made a point of saying it does not consider Taiwan independent, expressed frustration.

China sanctioned Pelosi and her immediate family following her departure from Taiwan in August, even as China ramped up saber-rattling exercises, including military drills and fighter jet flyovers meant to send a message of intimidation to Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Ministry blasted Pelosi’s “vicious and provocative actions” in visiting the island that China considers its sovereign territory.

Greg Wilson contributed to this report.

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