Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on Wednesday on a stopover ahead of visits to the self-ruled island's allies in Central America, with eyes on whether she will anger Beijing by meeting with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

After visiting Guatemala and Belize, Tsai is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles on Tuesday on her way back home. Taiwanese media has reported that she is expected to meet with McCarthy, a California congressman who is the third-highest-ranking official in the United States after the president and vice president.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrives at a hotel in New York on March 29, 2023, on a stopover ahead of visits to the self-ruled island's allies in Central America. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Tsai last visited the United States in July 2019 as part of a trip to Caribbean countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan. She arrived at a hotel in Manhattan waving to the crowd, with supporters of both Taipei and Beijing staging rallies nearby.

Beijing, which regards Taiwan as its own territory, fiercely reacted to a visit to the island last August by McCarthy's predecessor Nancy Pelosi, conducting large-scale military drills nearby and suspending dialogue with the United States in various areas.

Xu Xueyuan, interim Chinese ambassador to the United States, expressed displeasure at Tsai's visit to the United States, telling reporters her real intention behind the trip is to seek Taiwan's independence.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday that Beijing "strongly protests and condemns" the U.S. arrangement of Tsai's transit.

She alleged that Washington and Taipei arranged for Tsai to engage in political activities in the United States and "framed it as a 'transit' to upgrade official exchanges and substantive relations" with Taiwan, according to official transcripts from the ministry.

The U.S. government has tried to downplay Tsai's presence in the United States, with White House national security spokesman John Kirby telling reporters China "should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any aggressive activity around the Taiwan Strait."

Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, told a separate press conference, "Transits by high-level Taiwan authorities are not visits. They are private and unofficial, and they are not new."

Tsai plans to attend an event at a think tank Thursday before leaving New York the following day, according to Taiwanese media reports.

Meanwhile, former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who is currently visiting the mainland, met with Song Tao, who heads China's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and stresses the need for both sides of the strait to maintain exchanges and avoid any conflict.

Ma is the first former Taiwan leader to visit the mainland since the two sides split in 1949 due to a civil war. He is a senior member of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party and was born in Hong Kong.

On Thursday, Ma visited an exhibition on Wuhan's battle against COVID-19 and paid tribute to medical workers in the city where the virus's outbreak was first detected.

Even though Communist-led China has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the island as a renegade province to be united 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 them maintain a self-defense capability.

People gather in front of a hotel in New York hosting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, welcoming her arrival in the city on March 29, 2023. She arrived in New York on a stopover ahead of visits to the self-ruled island's allies in Central America. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

People stage a pro-China rally in front of a New York hotel hosting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on March 29, 2023. She arrived in New York the same day on a stopover ahead of visits to the self-ruled island's allies in Central America. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo