China warns McCarthy not to meet with Taiwan's president in the U.S.

HONG KONG — China has warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy not to “repeat disastrous past mistakes” by meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen this week, saying it would undermine regional peace and stability and worsen U.S.-China relations.

The Taiwanese government dismissed criticism of the planned meeting, which it confirmed would take place in California on Wednesday. Tsai’s transit through the United States has fueled new threats from Beijing as relations between the world’s two largest economies spiral.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said criticism of Tsai’s trip by China’s ruling Communist Party, which has never controlled Taiwan, had become “increasingly absurd.”

“Even if the authoritarian government continues to expand and increase coercion, Taiwan will not back down,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

McCarthy’s office said Monday that the bipartisan meeting would take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., as Tsai transits through the United States following a trip to Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s 13 remaining formal diplomatic allies. It will be her second U.S. transit after a stop in New York last week, her first time in the country since 2019.

China has repeatedly warned against any meeting between Tsai and McCarthy, who as House speaker is second in line for the presidency, and threatened retaliatory measures. It sees such outreach by U.S. officials as an expression of support for the independence of Taiwan, a self-ruling island democracy that Beijing claims as its territory.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson criticized the planned meeting as a violation of the one-China principle, under which Washington recognizes Beijing as the sole legitimate government of China while maintaining unofficial relations with Taipei.

China will closely monitor the situation and “resolutely defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesperson, Mao Ning, said at a regular briefing on Tuesday, without providing details.

The White House says transit visits by high-level Taiwanese officials are routine and that China should not use Tsai’s travel through the U.S. as a “pretext” for greater aggression against Taiwan.

The Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles said it was “false” to describe Tsai’s time in the U.S. as a transit stop and that she was putting on a “political show” through her public engagements and official meetings with people like McCarthy.

The House speaker “will undoubtedly repeat disastrous past mistakes and further damage Sino-U.S. relations,” a spokesperson said in a statement on Monday. “It will only strengthen the Chinese people’s strong will and determination to share the same enemy and support national reunification.”

When McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan last August, the first House speaker to do so in 25 years, China responded with unprecedented live-fire drills. Though overall Chinese military activity has intensified since Pelosi’s visit, Taiwan has not reported anything unusual in recent days.

A meeting between McCarthy and Tsai in the U.S. may be viewed by Beijing as less provocative, though McCarthy has said any meeting with Tsai would not preclude his own visit to Taiwan.

Tsai already met with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House, while in New York, a source familiar with the meeting told NBC News. Other lawmakers who could meet with Tsai in California include Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who heads a House committee on China.