Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen embarked on a 10-day trip Wednesday to the island's Central American allies via the United States, during which she is expected to hold talks with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, even as China warned against such a meeting.
Tsai will transit through New York and Los Angeles on her way to and from Guatemala and Belize and deliver speeches in the United States. Earlier Wednesday, China threatened "resolute countermeasures" against a potential Tsai-McCarthy meeting.
With China in mind, the president said in a statement before her departure, "Our determination to engage with the world will not be diminished by the pressures of expanding authoritarianism."
She also said Taiwan "stands firm in its defense of our values of freedom and democracy and will continue to act as a force for good in the international community."
In Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said Tsai's meeting with McCarthy "will be another provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle" and "damages peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
Zhu also urged Washington to refrain from arranging Tsai's official contact with U.S. officials and take concrete actions to honor its commitment to not supporting "Taiwan independence."
Later in the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press conference that Beijing "firmly opposes any formal official contact" between Washington and Taipei and has "made serious demarches" to the United States over Tsai's stopovers.
Mao criticized the United States for "egregiously conniving at and supporting 'Taiwan independence' separatists," whom she said are making provocations together with the United States, according to official transcripts from the ministry.
Beijing, which regards the self-ruled democratic island as its own, fiercely reacted to a Taiwan visit last August by McCarthy's predecessor Nancy Pelosi by conducting large-scale military drills near the territory and suspending dialogue with the United States over various areas.
Meanwhile, former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is currently on a 12-day trip to China, making the first visit to the mainland by a former leader of the island since the two sides split in 1949 due to a civil war. Ma is a senior member of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party.
On Wednesday, Ma visited a memorial dedicated to victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre committed by Japanese troops and expressed deep condolences for those who lost their lives, saying the history should never be forgotten.
"As Chinese, no matter from which side of the Taiwan Strait, we should be independent and self-reliant, and should fight back with courage when bullied and humiliated by foreign powers," China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Ma as saying.
Tsai last visited the United States in July 2019 as part of her trip to Caribbean countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan, triggering China's protest.
Even though Communist-led China has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the island as a renegade province to be unified with the mainland by force if necessary.
The United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but has kept up unofficial relations with Taiwan and supplies the island with arms and spare parts to help it maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities.