Written by Rick Gladstone
The leader of Taiwan, the self-governing island of 24 million claimed by China, visited the United States on Thursday and said her people would “never be intimidated,” risking China’s wrath and a further fraying of ties between Beijing and the Trump administration.
The visit by President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which includes stopovers in New York and Denver, is happening over the objections of China.
Tsai made the trip in the midst of a protracted trade dispute between China and the United States, and just a few days after the Defense Department approved a $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, a deal that China regards as provocative.
While Tsai has visited the United States before, this was her first trip as president to New York, where Taiwan maintains a large unofficial consular and trade office just a few blocks from the United Nations. Taiwan is not a U.N. member and has no representatives, but 17 countries in the world body continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Tsai’s two-day New York itinerary, which required the Trump administration’s approval, included a summit of Taiwan and American business representatives and a dinner banquet with members of the Taiwanese American community.
Her entourage, protected by federal agents and New York police officers, arrived at the midtown Grand Hyatt to a raucous welcome by hundreds of pro-Taiwan demonstrators.
Across the street, a smaller but equally passionate group of pro-Beijing protesters was denouncing the visit.
Later Thursday at a reception held in Taiwan’s consular offices nearby, Tsai welcomed U.N. ambassadors from the countries, mostly in Latin America and islands in the Pacific Ocean, that recognize Taiwan despite pressure from China.
She thanked them for helping to ensure that Taiwan’s voice is “heard around the world.”
The United States broke formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s government in 1979, ending what was known as the two-China policy, in order to establish relations with China’s Communist government in Beijing. But the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan and has provided it with defensive weapons meant to deter a Chinese attack.
Taiwan’s tensions with China, with which it has developed expansive commercial ties, have grown under Tsai, who has been president since 2016. A member of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, she has stressed what she has called the need to strengthen the country’s military defenses.