Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York to harsh criticism from China, which cautioned the US of dire consequences.
Ms Tsai is passing through the United States on her route to Central America, but she may run into US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on her way back.
China has condemned such a gathering, warning that it could lead to a “serious confrontation.”
The US has responded by saying that Beijing should not overreact to Ms Tsai’s visit.
The US hopes for a “normal, uneventful transit,” according to White House national security spokesman John Kirby, adding that this is Ms Tsai’s seventh transit through the US during her tenure as Taiwan’s leader.
“This is a common occurrence…Other Taiwanese presidents have transited through the United States.” “There’s nothing unusual about this,” he said during a news conference.
This will be the 29th visit to Taiwan by a living president since the first in 1994.
Ms Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday to competing crowds of protesters and fans outside her hotel.
She is scheduled to fly to Guatemala and Belize this week to strengthen Central American alliances before returning via Los Angeles, where she may confer with the senior US political leader, according to US media reports.
In reaction to Ms Tsai’s arrival in the United States, China’s top envoy in Washington accused the United States of advocating for Taiwan’s independence by allowing her to “make a splash” in their country.
“Whether it is Taiwanese leaders visiting the US or US leaders visiting Taiwan, it could lead to another serious, serious, serious confrontation in the China-US relationship,” Xu Xueyuan, China’s Chargé d’Affaires, said at a press conference.
Ms Tsai’s presence in the US “seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to Ms Xu.
“We urge the US side not to play with fire again on the Taiwan issue,” she said.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Taiwan Affairs Office have both vehemently condemned the visit, alleging that it violated Chinese law.
“We vehemently oppose this and will undoubtedly take measures to resolutely fight back,” Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian told reporters on Wednesday.
Ms Tsai is set to travel to Taiwan on April 7.
Taiwan regards itself as an independent state, whereas China regards it as a breakaway province that will be reunited with the mainland in the future.
Beijing has not ruled out using force to achieve that objective.
Tensions between China, Taiwan, and the United States peaked last year, after Mr McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, travelled to Taipei to meet Ms Tsai.
In response to Ms. Pelosi’s visit, Beijing conducted a week of massive military exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan.
Ms. Tsai’s trip to Central America comes after Honduras, a longtime ally, switched positions last week and established diplomatic ties with Beijing. As a result, Taiwan now has the recognition of only 13 countries worldwide.