Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on Wednesday on what is officially called a transit on her way to Guatemala and Belize, and will be stopping in Los Angeles on her way back to Taipei next month.
While in California she is expected to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
China, which views the democratically governed island as its own territory, has threatened unspecified retaliation if that meeting goes ahead, having staged war games around Taiwan in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Taipei.
Here are some facts about the relationship between Taiwan and the United States.
* After the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 having lost a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists, who established the People’s Republic of China, Washington continued to recognise the government in Taipei as the sole legal representative of the Chinese people.
* During the height of the Cold War, Taiwan hosted U.S. military bases and the two had a Mutual Defence Treaty.
* In 1979, the United States severed official relations with the government in Taipei and instead recognised the government in Beijing. The defence treaty was terminated too.
* Post-1979, the U.S. relationship with Taiwan has been governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which gives a legal basis to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but does not mandate that the United States come to Taiwan’s aid if attacked.
* While the United States has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, U.S. President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan.
* The United States retains a large de facto embassy in Taipei called the American Institute in Taiwan, staffed by diplomats. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office is the name of Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the United States.
* The United States continues to be Taiwan’s most important international source of weapons, and Taiwan’s contested status is a constant source of friction between Beijing and Washington.
* Taiwan’s government says that as the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island it has no right to claim sovereignty over it or speak for or represent it on the world stage, and that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
* China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and in 2005 passed a law giving Beijing the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.
* Taiwan’s official name continues to be the Republic of China, though these days the government often stylises it as the Republic of China (Taiwan). Only 13 countries now formally recognise Taiwan.