Taiwan expects a less severe reaction from China to an expected meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and has not seen any unusual Chinese military movements, a senior Taiwan security official said on Thursday.
Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday on her way to Central America, and will stop off in Los Angeles next week on her way back to Taipei.
While in California she is expected to meet McCarthy. China has threatened unspecified retaliation if she meets him.
Speaking at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said they expected a less severe reaction to that meeting than when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to Taipei and China staged war games around Taiwan after she left.
“We believe that the actions the Chinese communists might take are unlikely to go as far as being as large as when Pelosi visited last August,” said Tsai, who shares a common family name with the president but is not related.
“She will be meeting in the United States, so the political complexity is not as high as the speaker coming to Taiwan.”
Asked whether China could again mass its forces around Taiwan to express its displeasure, Tsai said “there were all sorts of possibilities” including more Chinese combat drills as this is the season for them to hold exercises.
But Taiwan has been keeping a close watch on China’s military movements, said Tsai, adding: “At present there is nothing unusual”.
China is also hosting several senior foreign officials and leaders while President Tsai is away, meaning the timing would not be right for a strong military reaction against Taiwan, Tsai said.
Taiwan’s defence ministry, in its daily update on China’s military activities, said that from Wednesday to Thursday morning it had not spotted any Chinese aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defence zone or crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which serves as an unofficial barrier.
China’s air force flies almost daily into the air defence zone, or across the median line, in which Taiwan calls “grey zone” warfare designed to test and wear out its forces.
Tsai said they had been conducting dry runs for what to do to respond to a rise in tensions while the president is away, including when she is flying, and that she can be reached at any time to meet her top security officials.
The White House urged China on Wednesday not to use Tsai’s “normal” stopover in the United States as a pretext to increase aggressive activity against Taiwan.