China has pledged a firm response against Taiwan as Vice President William Lai made a stop in New York, United States, Sunday while en route to Paraguay, with Washington saying it is also monitoring the emerging situation closely.
Lai is bidding for the Taiwanese presidential elections in the coming year. Currently, he is stopping in New York to and from Paraguay where he is set to attend the inauguration of president-elect Santiago Pena.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and planned to integrate it with the mainland one day while ramping up political pressures upon it.
Chinese foreign ministry said in an online statement: “China is closely following the development of the situation and will take resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Lai has been more outspoken about independence than Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
The Harvard-educated doctor-turned-politician has previously described himself as a “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker”, and reiterated this week when speaking with a local television channel that Taiwan was “not part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”.
“The Republic of China and PRC are not subordinate to each other,” he said, using Taiwan’s official name.
On landing in New York Sunday, Lai said on Twitter, now X: “Happy to arrive at the Big Apple, icon of liberty, democracy and opportunities,” adding that he was “greeted at the airport by representatives of the American Institute in Taiwan, the United States’s de facto embassy for the island.”
“Looking forward to seeing friends and attending transit programs in New York,” he wrote.
Lai is expected to continue to Paraguay, then stop in San Francisco on his way back.
In the week leading up to Lai’s departure, incursions by the Chinese military around Taiwan’s waters and airspace — which have been happening near-daily in the past year — were larger than usual.
On Wednesday, the defence ministry said 33 Chinese warplanes and six vessels had been detected around the island in a 24-hour window.
“China is firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges between the US and Taiwan, is resolutely opposed to separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ entering the US under any name and for any reason, and firmly opposed to any form of official contact between the US government and the Taiwanese side,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction with and strongly condemns the US insistence on arranging William Lai’s ‘transit’ to the US,” the spokesperson added, labelling Lai a “downright troublemaker”.