(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, whose visit to the US led to efforts by the Biden administration to avoid a fresh dispute with China, met this week with the top House Democrat, Hakeem Jeffries, according to a person familiar with the encounter.

The meeting took place in New York City on Thursday, the person added. Jeffries, the House minority leader, represents a district in Brooklyn. 

His office declined to confirm the meeting, and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday evening. The Taiwan presidential office said in a statement that Tsai’s meetings with American friends would be announced at an appropriate time. The Tsai-Jeffries meeting was reported earlier Friday by Punchbowl News.

Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday and left Friday on a trip that is taking her to Guatemala and Belize, two of the few remaining countries that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. Then she will pass through Los Angeles, where she is expected to meet with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in his home state.

Although China lodged a protest over Tsai’s visit, several people familiar with the matter say they believe China’s response may be more muted than earlier feared. The people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, said Tsai scrapped some events and limited her press engagements, which were seen as most likely to enrage Beijing.

In a sign that the White House was trying to keep the issue under control and preempt any overreaction or miscommunication, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart last week that both sides decided not to publicize. 

In a sign of the US efforts to make Tsai’s travels appear routine, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday that “transits are not visits. They are private and not official”

Yet Tsai’s arrival came at a time of particularly acrimonious US-China relations over everything from control of the South China Sea to Russia’s war in Ukraine to China’s human rights record to the flight of a Chinese balloon across the US earlier in March.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been eager to denounce China, and many have expressed affinity for Taiwan. A visit to the island last summer by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was followed by unprecedented military drills by China around Taiwan.

At the same time, President Joe Biden’s efforts to put a floor under the rapidly deteriorating relationship with China have yet to succeed, Biden’s top Asia adviser, Kurt Campbell, said Thursday. 


--With assistance from Erik Wasson and Jordan Fabian.

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