Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said that the security of the world hinges on the self-ruled island’s fate, her first remarks on a US trip that may further escalate tensions in the already fraught relationship between Washington and Beijing.
“Taiwan is at the front lines of democracy,” Tsai said at an event Wednesday after landing in New York. “The more united Taiwanese are, the safer Taiwan will be, and the safer the world will be.”
Speaking at a dinner banquet with hundreds of Taiwanese Americans from cities including New York, Boston, and Washington, Tsai discussed the increasing importance of Taiwan to the world. She said countries such as Japan and many European nations want to work with Taiwan as uncertainties over the US-China trade war and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine accelerate the restructuring of global supply chains.
Tsai’s visit comes at a sensitive time—hope for better Beijing-Washington ties following a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping late last year was soon undermined by a dispute over an alleged spy balloon. US officials have indicated that a long-sought Biden-Xi call could take place after Tsai wraps up her travels.
Tsai is spending two nights in New York before heading to Guatemala and Belize, two of the few remaining nations that still recognize Taiwan as an independent country. That number of countries recently fell to 13 when Honduras switched ties to Beijing.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York State Senator Iwen Chu were among the guests that joined Tsai’s event Wednesday night. Also in attendance were Taiwan’s representative to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, and Laura Rosenberger, the head of the de facto US embassy to the island.
Tsai also met with Murphy before the dinner for around half an hour, according to Chang Tun-han, deputy secretary-general at Taiwan’s Presidential Office. Taiwan looks forward to continuing to deepen exchanges and cooperation with the state on issues including high-tech and green energy, Chang said.
On Thursday night, Tsai will give a speech and receive an award at an event hosted by the conservative Hudson Institute, according to Chang.
Trying to get ahead of further criticism from Beijing, Biden administration officials tried to play down Tsai’s transits through the US, but China said the trip would do further damage to the relationship. Inflaming matters more, Tsai is set to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles on her return leg next week.
“What we hope to see here is a normal, uneventful transit by President Tsai Ing-wen, because that’s what’s happened before and there’s no reason for it to be any different this time,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said before the two-term president landed. “There should not be a reaction to this since it’s normal activity.”
During her 20-minute speech, Tsai said Taiwan’s partnership with the US and other democracies are more critical than ever as the world faces tremendous challenges.
“Taiwan has shown the world in the past few years that we won’t be provocative nor give in when we face threats,” Tsai said. “Taiwan is capable of maintaining regional peace and stability, and we are resolved to guard our values and lifestyles.”
Investments by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest chipmaker, in Arizona not only demonstrate economic cooperation between the US and Taiwan, but also help extend the island’s strength in technology to the rest of the world, Tsai said.
Chinese officials pushed back on the US messaging that Tsai’s visit is a private one, saying the plan to meet McCarthy, a Republican, was particularly provocative because it will be the first time a House Speaker has met with a Taiwanese official in the US.
“The US keep saying that it is not a visit and that there are precedents but they should not use past mistakes as excuses for repeating them today,” China’s charge d’affaires, Xu Xueyan, told a briefing. “It will send the wrong signal to the world and will once again have a severe impact on the bilateral relationship.” With assistance from Iain Marlow/Bloomberg