China warns US House Speaker not to meet Taiwan president

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By Laurie Chen and Ben Blanchard

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) -China warned U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday not to "repeat disastrous past mistakes" by meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, saying it would not help regional peace and stability, only unite the Chinese people against a common enemy.

The Republican McCarthy, the third-most-senior U.S. leader after the president and vice president, will host a meeting in California on Wednesday with Tsai, during a sensitive stopover in the United States that has prompted Chinese threats of retaliation.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, staged war games around the island last August after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, visited the capital, Taipei.

Tsai will make what is formally called a "transit" in Los Angeles on her way back to Taipei after a trip to Central America. The United States says such stopovers are common practice and there is no need for China to overreact.

But China's consulate in Los Angeles said it was "false" to claim it as a transit, adding that Tsai was engaging in official exchanges to "put on a political show".

No matter in what capacity McCarthy meets Tsai, the gesture would greatly harm the feelings of the Chinese people, send a serious wrong signal to Taiwan separatist forces, and affect the political foundation of Sino-U.S. ties, it said in a statement.

"It is not conducive to regional peace, security nor stability, and is not in the common interests of the people of China and the United States," the consulate added.

McCarthy is ignoring the lessons from the mistakes of his predecessor, it said, in a veiled reference to Pelosi's Taipei visit, and is insisting on playing the "Taiwan card".

"He will undoubtedly repeat disastrous past mistakes and further damage Sino-U.S. relations. It will only strengthen the Chinese people's strong will and determination to share a common enemy and support national unity."

Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China will closely follow developments and resolutely and vigorously defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, without giving details.


Although Taiwan has not reported unusual Chinese movements in the run-up to the meeting, China's military has continued activities around the island.

Taiwan's defence ministry on Tuesday morning reported that in the previous 24 hours it had spotted nine Chinese military aircraft in its air defence identification zone, in an area between Taiwan's southwest coast and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands at the top of the South China Sea.

In a statement on Tuesday, Taiwan's foreign ministry said China had no right to complain, as the People's Republic of China has never ruled the island.

China's recent criticism of Tsai's trip "has become increasingly absurd", it added.

"Even if the authoritarian government continues with its expansion and intensifies coercion, Taiwan will not back down," the statement said.

In China, prominent commentator Hu Xijin wrote on his widely followed Twitter account "the Chinese mainland will definitely react, and make the Tsai Ing-wen regime lose much more than what they can gain from this meeting."

Hu, who had voiced his concerns over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last year, also wrote "The U.S. side is definitely not getting any real advantage either," on his Weibo account, a Twitter-like social media platform in China.

Hu is former editor-in-chief of Chinese state-backed tabloid the Global Times, known for its strident nationalistic stance.

Taiwan has lived with the threat of a Chinese attack since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's communists.

Life in Taiwan has continued as normal, with shops, restaurants and tourist spots in Taipei packed during a long holiday weekend that ends on Wednesday.

"They will certainly get angry and there will be some actions, but we are actually used to this," said social worker Sunny Lai, 42.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom and Fabian Hamacher in Taipei; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Clarence Fernandez and Gerry Doyle)