China expresses anger over Taiwan VP's visit to US
Beijing labeled Lai — a Harvard-educated doctor who has previously stressed Taiwan's independence — a separatist and a "troublemaker"
China on Sunday expressed anger over Taiwanese Vice President William Lai's brief visit to the US — a stopover on his way to Paraguay to attend a presidential inauguration.
"China is closely following the development of the situation and will take resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," a Foreign Ministry statement read.
Beijing labeled Lai — a Harvard-educated doctor who has previously stressed Taiwan's independence — a separatist and a "troublemaker."
"Lai stubbornly adheres to the separatist position of Taiwan independence and is a troublemaker through and through," a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. It added that China is against any visits to the US by "Taiwan independence separatists."
Lai, who is a frontrunner for the upcoming presidential elections set to take place in January 2024, has clarified during his campaign that he seeks to maintain the status quo and believes Taiwan's future should be determined by its people.
Beijing has previously vowed to take control of Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory, using force if necessary.
What are Lai's plans in the US
During his stopover in New York, Lai plans to meet with Taiwanese citizens living abroad at receptions and deliver a speech, reported Reuters news agency. He is not expected to engage with US lawmakers.
He was greeted by supporters waving flags to welcome him, and wrote on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was "looking forward to seeing friends and attending transit programs in New York."
He met with Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's top representative in the US and Ingrid Larson, Managing Director of the American Institute in Taiwan.
Taiwanese officials said they were expecting China to carry out military exercises in response, a move they characterized as a ploy to intimidate voters ahead of the upcoming election.
The Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army — which is responsible for military affairs in the area around Taiwan — shared a video of fighter jet training exercises on its WeChat account on Sunday.
Lai's visit coincides with efforts by Beijing and Washington to improve their relationship, including the potential for a visit by China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the US which could pave the way for a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later in the year.
China's military activities around Taiwan have escalated in recent years, aimed at coercing the island to acknowledge China's sovereignty. This trend was exemplified in April when China conducted military drills around the democratically-governed island following Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's meetings with US officials.