Taiwan split from China during a civil war in 1949, but the mainland still considers the self-governing island as part of its territory.
"Taiwan will not succumb to intimidation", the Presidential Office said in a statement released as Tsai's visit began, without specifically mentioning China.
The tanks represent a significant upgrade to Taiwan's ageing fleet. The event, which focused on democracy in Taiwan, was moderated by Columbia Professors Andrew Nathan and Jack Snyder and attended by Columbia students, faculty and invited guests. "We hope to put an effective system in place to protect ourselves from this information war using government policy and the law".
The democratic island has ruled itself for seven decades but most countries do not recognize it - including the United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
Taiwan's leaders have typically been prohibited from making public appearances during transit stops in the USA since Washington switched its diplomatic allegiance to Beijing from Taipei in 1979.
On Monday, the Pentagon said the US State Department had approved the sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, which are manufactured by Raytheon.
"The US arms sale to Taiwan has severely violated the basic norms of global law and worldwide relations", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Friday.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the deal was "a serious violation of global law and the basic norms governing worldwide relations", as well as violating the ruling Chinese Communist Party's "one China" principle under which it claims Taiwan as part of China.
"The US arms sale to Taiwan has severely violated the basic norms of global law and worldwide relations", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in an online statement.
Wang Yi, during his visit to Hungary, asked the U.S. to "recognise the gravity of the Taiwan question".
The Taiwan question is one of several sensitive issues undermining relations between the US and China.
Tsai is heading to the Caribbean, stopping over in the United States for a total of four nights, an unusually long transit period that has resulted in strenuous objections from Beijing.
Taiwanese media broadcast footage of the clashes outside the Grand Hyatt, where Tsai is staying during her two-day U.S. trip.
"Or maybe with National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has already held a meeting with Taiwan's national security chief David Lee", he said. "China relations, ultimately their actions will backfire", Wang said.
"The 23 million people in Taiwan have the right to participate in worldwide affairs", Tsai said.