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Taiwan's President Transits US in Unofficial Visit, Angering China


Taiwan's president arrived in the United States this week as part of a multi-day tour that's already angered China. Chinese government officials say they're closely watching what happens as the Taiwanese president looks to thank allies in the West.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrived to fanfare from Taiwanese people in New York City on Wednesday. She stressed security to a banquet room full of supporters. 

"The safer Taiwan is, the safer the world will be," she said Wednesday. 

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The trip is meant as a "thank you" to supporters of the Democratic island while it's facing growing threats from China over independence.

Taiwan's president is planning to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California next week, prompting an angry response from the Chinese government. 

"We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back," Chinese spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian told reporters this week. 

McCarthy didn't address the meeting directly at a news conference on Thursday but did call out authoritarian regimes around the world.

"Putin's authoritarian. Xi's authoritarian. And I'm very concerned where I see the world right now, it looks like 1936. We have China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran," he said during a press conference touting a newly passed energy bill. 

Pro-China protestors also greeted the Taiwanese president. China claims Taiwan as part of its own territory. The issue is one of the biggest splits in relations between the United States and China. 

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The Biden administration has downplayed the significance of the trip, calling it a "transit" and not an official visit. 

"It is Taiwan's decision to make these transits based on their own travel. Transits are not visits. They are private and they're unofficial. I would also remind everyone that this is not ... this is not new. Every Taiwan president has transited the United States. President Tsai Ing-wen, herself, has transited the U.S. six times since taking office in 2016," said National Security spokesman John Kirby. 

The administration also hopes to prevent any aggression from China and stressed America's position on the Taiwan-China relationship hasn't changed. 

"The U.S. opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, and we do not support Taiwan independence and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means," said State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel.

The lingering question is what kind of response may come from China. When former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Taiwan mainland last year, China responded with aggressive military drills around the island.

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