China underlines that it would sternly respond to Taiwanese Vice President William Lai making a stop in the United States on his way to Paraguay.
China pledged to take “resolute and forceful measures” over the trip made by Taiwanese Vice President William Lai to the United States over the weekend.
Lai went Saturday on a trip to the United States over the weekend in a move that further stoked tensions with China, whose officials expressed their dismay with the trip taking place.
The trip includes transit stops in New York and San Francisco en route to and from Paraguay, where Lai is attending the presidential inauguration. This act has been met with strong disapproval from Chinese officials amid stark tensions with Washington over its ties with Taipei.
“China is closely following the development of the situation and will take resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement published online.
Lai, the front-runner in the upcoming Taiwanese elections, an island that China lays claims to, is a staunch supporter of Taiwanese independence, and he is far more outspoken about the issue than President Tsai Ing-wen, another politician who refuses to acknowledge Taiwan as part of China.
The vice president previously described himself as a “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker,” underlining earlier in the week that Taiwan was “not part of the People’s Republic of China.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to which Wu belongs, is seen as more pro-United States compared to the opposition Kuomintang Party. The current DPP administration, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, is in its final term and has been at odds with the Chinese leadership.
Upon his arrival in New York on his way to Paraguay, he took to X, formerly known as Twitter, and said: “Happy to arrive at the Big Apple, icon of liberty, democracy, and opportunities,” saying he was greeted at the John F Kennedy airport by representatives of the American Institute in Taiwan. “Looking forward to seeing friends and attending transit programs in New York.”
Only last week did China’s foreign ministry urge US officials to “abide by the One-China principle and… to stop official exchanges between the US and Taiwan.”
However, Taipei tried to downplay the trip and its significance; foreign ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu said there was “nothing special” about Lai transiting through the US on his way to and from Paraguay. He also explained that Lai was making the trip as Vice President rather than a presidential candidate.
While these are official stopovers, the visit provides an opportunity for Lai to meet with US officials despite Chinese warnings.
“China has no reason to overreact or take the opportunity to escalate the situation,” Liu said. “If China decides… to take provocative actions, it is China, not Taiwan or the United States, that undermines the status quo of peace and stability in the region.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping in July called on soldiers to protect China’s sovereignty and territory, telling them to strengthen war and combat planning to boost their chances of winning in actual warfare, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned that a “Chinese invasion” of the island would have catastrophic consequences for the world citing Taiwan’s strategic importance in the semiconductor industry and global shipping lanes.
Wu highlighted that any use of force against Taiwan would create far-reaching repercussions globally. He drew attention to the food and fuel shortages, as well as spiraling inflation, caused by the war in Ukraine as an example of the potential consequences.
Taiwan’s location plays a crucial role in international security and prosperity, as more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping containers pass through the waterway that separates Taiwan from mainland China.
Meanwhile, the US, bolstering Taiwan’s ability to go to war with China, unveiled in late July a $345 million military aid package for Taipei, which allegedly included intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, and small arms munitions.
The package is to be drawn from the US’ reserves and thus will allow for the equipment to be delivered at a faster rate than other military packages.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the package offered “capabilities that Taiwan will be able to use to bolster deterrence now and in the future,” adding that elements of the package “address critical defensive stockpiles, multi-domain awareness, anti-armor and air defense capabilities.”