NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on Wednesday on a stopover ahead of visits to the self-ruled island's allies in Central America, with eyes on whether she will anger Beijing by meeting with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
After visiting Guatemala and Belize, Tsai is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles on Tuesday on her way back home. Taiwanese media has reported that she is expected to meet with McCarthy, a California congressman who is the third-highest-ranking official in the United States after the president and vice president.
Tsai last visited the United States in July 2019 as part of a trip to Caribbean countries with diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Tsai arrived at a hotel in Manhattan waving to the crowd, with supporters of both Taipei and Beijing staging rallies nearby.
Beijing, which regards Taiwan as its own territory, fiercely reacted to a visit to the island last August by McCarthy's predecessor Nancy Pelosi, conducting large-scale military drills nearby and suspending dialogue with the United States in various areas.
Xu Xueyuan, interim Chinese ambassador to the United States, expressed displeasure at Tsai's visit to the United States, telling reporters her real intention behind the trip is to seek Taiwan's independence.
The U.S. government has tried to downplay Tsai's presence in the United States with White House national security spokesman John Kirby telling reporters China "should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any aggressive activity around the Taiwan Strait."
Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, told a separate press conference, "Transits by high-level Taiwan authorities are not visits. They are private and unofficial, and they are not new."
Tsai plans to attend an event at a think tank event Thursday before leaving New York the following day, according to Taiwanese media reports.
Even though Communist-led China has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the island as a renegade province to be united with the mainland by force if necessary.
The United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but has kept up unofficial relations with Taiwan and supplies the island with arms and spare parts for them to help it maintain self-defense capability.