Taiwan president’s ‘transit plans’ leave China ‘seriously concerned’

China is “seriously concerned” about Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen’s “transit” plans ahead of a visit to the US to meet House speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy confirmed on Tuesday that he would be meeting Taiwan’s president in the US this year.

But he stressed that this was not precluding his planned trip to the democratically governed island nation claimed by China, according to Bloomberg News.

China said it is “seriously concerned about the news”.

“We have lodged solemn representations with the US side and asked them to clarify,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

While the island territory’s presidents have previously travelled to the US while en route to other countries for a day or two, the US government has avoided meeting senior Taiwanese officials in Washington.

In a statement, Taiwan’s presidential office said “transit arrangements” had been in place for many years.

“At present, various departments are communicating and preparing for relevant plans, and the planning of the related itinerary will be explained in a timely manner after the plan is finalised,” it said, without mentioning the US directly.

China, which stakes claim over Taiwan, is firmly opposed to any exchanges between the democratically governed island and the US.

“No one should underestimate the strong determination of the Chinese government and people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ms Ning said.

“The real threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is the separatist forces of Taiwan independence,” she said.

Last year, following a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, China staged military exercises around the island that involved live-fire drills that went on for weeks, threatening its population of 23 million people.

China flew drones over Taiwan’s offshore islands and sailed warships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait during these military exercises.

While the US does not have any formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is legally bound to help the island defend itself.

Speaking to CBS News’ 60 Minutes last year, president Joe Biden said the country’s troops would come to Taiwan’s defence in the event of an attack by China.