Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen has arrived in New York for a visit that has sparked threats of retaliatory measures from China, AFP reported.
Tsai is stopping in the United States on her way to Central America, where she will meet with the leaders of Guatemala and Belize to strengthen ties with those diplomatic allies. On her way back to Taiwan, she would stop in California, where McCarthy had said he would meet her.
China claims the democratic island as part of its territory that will one day be reclaimed, and under the "One China" principle, no country can maintain official ties with both Beijing and Taipei.
Beijing has warned that it is strongly opposed to any meeting between Tsai and McCarthy and has vowed to take "decisive measures" if it takes place.
In response, the US said China should not use Tsai'sstop as a pretext for aggressive action around the Taiwan Strait.
Outside Tsai's New York hotel, dozens of pro-Beijing demonstrators waved China's red flag, while nearby an equally large group of pro-Taiwan supporters cheered and waved their flag and the American Stars and Stripes.
Xu Xueyuan, charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said she had repeatedly spoken directly with American officials and warned them that Tsai's trip would violate China's core interests.
"We urge the United States not to repeat the fire game on the Taiwan issue," she told reporters, referring among other things to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last year.
Tsai's trip follows Honduras' decision this month to open diplomatic relations with Beijing, leaving Belize and Guatemala among just 13 countries with official ties to Taipei.
After first visiting New York, Tsai will meet with her Guatemalan counterpartAlejandro Giammattei and Belizean Prime MinisterJohn Briceao in their respective countries, her office said.
She will then stop in Los Angeles on her way home.
McCarthy has said he will meet with Tsai, although the talks have not yet been confirmed by Taiwanese authorities.
Analysts say the US visit comes at a pivotal time as Beijing has stepped up military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016.
"Beijing's attempts to hijack Taiwan's diplomatic partners will lead to Taiwan developing closer ties with the US," said James Lee, a researcher on US-Taiwan relations at Academia Sinica.
The United States remains Taiwan's most important ally - and its largest arms supplier - although in 1979 it changed its diplomatic recognition in favor of Beijing.
"The loss of official relations with third countries will be offset by a deepening of Taiwan's unofficial relations," Lee said.
Recent visits by a Czech delegation and a German minister were met with rebukes from Beijing.
One of Tsai's most prominent domestic opponents, former president Ma Ying-jeou, was in China - the first such trip by a former Taiwanese leader.
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