(Simi Valley) “We are not isolated”: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen on Wednesday welcomed the presence of a large delegation from the United States Congress during her trip to California, proof she said of Washington’s “unwavering” support in the face of in Beijing.

The 66-year-old leader met Republican Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, despite repeated threats of retaliation from China.

The elected official from California assured that the relationship between Taipei and Washington was “stronger” than it had ever been “in his lifetime”.

Kevin McCarthy was surrounded by a large group of congressmen, both Republicans and Democrats, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, near Los Angeles.

“Their presence and their unwavering support reassures the Taiwanese people: we are not isolated, we are not alone”, applauded the Taiwanese president.

This “transit” of Tsai Ing-wen through California, after a tour of Latin America, greatly irritates Beijing, which has promised to “retaliate” and has multiplied angry statements in recent weeks.

China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces to be taken back, favoring “peaceful reunification”, but without excluding the use of force. In the name of its “One China” principle, no country is supposed to maintain official ties with Beijing and Taipei at the same time.

In a final warning on Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs recalled that China was “firmly opposed” to the interview between the third figure of the American state and the Taiwanese leader, from an independence party.

Beijing also explained that it was ready to “firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, without expressly mentioning possible military maneuvers.

The United States has a long-standing “strategic ambiguity” on the Taiwan issue. Washington has recognized Beijing since 1979, but remains Taiwan’s strongest ally and main arms supplier.

Support for the island is one of the few bipartisan consensuses in the US Congress and under Tsai Ing-wen’s tenure, Taiwan has moved closer to the United States.

Last August, the Taiwanese president received in Taiwan the democrat Nancy Pelosi, at the head of the House of Representatives before Mr. McCarthy.

This visit had provoked the ire of Beijing, which had carried out military exercises around the island on an unprecedented scale since the mid-1990s.

Kevin McCarthy “still wants to play the Taiwan card” against Beijing, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles said in a statement on Monday. “He will no doubt make the same mistake again, which will further damage the China-US relationship. »

Like Ms. Pelosi, the Republican leader initially wanted to visit Taiwan. He eventually opted for a less frontal approach, meeting Tsai Ing-wen in California.

The Biden administration has also downplayed the meeting, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken recalling on Wednesday that it was only a “transit” of the Taiwanese leader and not an official visit. He called on Beijing not to use the interview as an “excuse” to “escalate tensions”.

Pro-Beijing and pro-Taiwan protesters faced off Wednesday morning outside the library where the meeting is taking place. A small plane also flew over the area with a banner: “One China!” Taiwan is part of China! »

Tsai Ing-wen, whose presidential term ends next year, seeks to show that Beijing has failed to diplomatically isolate Taiwan since coming to power in 2016.

China has convinced several countries to no longer recognize Taiwan in recent years. The latest, Honduras announced its decision at the end of March.

Only 13 states still recognize Taiwan, including Belize and Guatemala, which Ms. Tsai visited on her tour, after a first stop in New York. Before handing over, the leader wishes to cement the confidence of the Taiwanese in her formation, the Democratic Progressive Party.