Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen will speak in New York and receive a leadership award from a prominent think-tank when she travels to the US this month, on a trip that will include a meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
People familiar with the situation said the Taiwanese leader would speak at the New York event sponsored by the Washington-based Hudson Institute on March 30.
Tsai will receive Hudson’s “global leadership award”, which was previously given to recipients including Henry Kissinger. She is stopping in the US en route to Guatemala and Belize, and will meet McCarthy in his home state of California and deliver a speech at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
Her trip through New York and California will be extremely closely watched by Beijing, which has already objected to her upcoming meeting with McCarthy. The Chinese embassy in Washington earlier this week said China “firmly rejects all forms of official interactions between the US and Taiwan”, after the FT reported that Tsai and McCarthy would meet in the US.
The Republican Speaker agreed to meet Tsai in California, as opposed to making a trip to Taiwan, because of sensitivities in Taipei about Chinese military responses. The People’s Liberation Army last August conducted huge military drills, including firing ballistic missiles over Taiwan for the first time, after Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, became the first Speaker to visit the island since Newt Gingrich 25 years before.
Tsai’s visit, and the possibility that her speeches will trigger a harsh response from Beijing, come as US-China tensions are high, particularly in the wake of the episode involving the suspected Chinese spy balloon which flew over North America last month before it was shot down by the US off the coast of South Carolina.
Qin Gang, the new Chinese foreign minister who previously served as ambassador to Washington, this week warned that the US and China were heading for a possible conflict if the two powers could not lower the tensions between them.
“If the US doesn’t hit the brakes and continues to barrel down the wrong track, no amount of guardrails can prevent the carriage from derailing and crashing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation,” Qin said at a press conference during the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature.
McCarthy this week confirmed that he would meet Tsai in California following the FT report, but said it did not preclude a future visit to Taiwan.
“That has nothing to do with my travel and if I would go to Taiwan or not,” McCarthy said. “China can’t tell me where or when to go.”
Hudson declined to comment. Tsai’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her activities in New York.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
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