Taiwan president plans 'transit' in Los Angeles, New York: Government minister


TAIPEI: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen plans to stop off in Los Angeles and New York as part of a visit to Central America, a government minister said on Thursday (Mar 9), a sensitive itinerary Tsai’s office has yet to confirm.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy confirmed on Tuesday that he would see Tsai in his home state, sidestepping a potential visit by the top Republican to Taiwan that policymakers there feared would send tensions soaring far higher with Beijing.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, said on Wednesday it was “seriously concerned” by Tsai’s “transit” plans and had asked Washington for clarification.

Taiwan’s presidents, including Tsai, have a record of travelling through the US en route to other countries, usually for a day or two, though the US government has generally avoided meeting senior Taiwanese officials in Washington.

Asked by a lawmaker in parliament about Tsai’s arrangements for meeting with overseas Taiwanese while she is abroad, minister of the Overseas Community Affairs Council Hsu Chia-ching said it was confirmed one of these events would happen in New York.

There would be four such meetings with overseas Taiwanese, including in the Central American countries Tsai would be visiting, Hsu said, answering “yes” when Guatemala and Belize were mentioned, both of which have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

“On the west coast it’s most likely Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is very big so we don’t know in which area,” Hsu said, adding she would be part of the delegation going on the trip.

Taiwan’s presidential office declined to confirm any travel arrangements.

State Department spokesman Ned Price described Tsai’s expected travel as “transit” rather than a “visit” to the United States, which supports but does not recognize the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing.

“Transits of the United States by high-level Taiwan officials are consistent with longstanding US policy and with our unofficial and strong relations with Taiwan,” Price told reporters.

“That is nothing new. It is not something that would break any new ground. It is entirely consistent with the status quo,” Price said.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said China had “no right to point fingers” at the island’s diplomatic exchanges.

“President Tsai is the head of state of the Republic of China,” said Douglas Hsu, a Taiwanese foreign ministry official, using the official name Taiwan uses to describe itself.

“Such a malicious slander is unacceptable. China’s remarks disregard the facts and are undignified.”

McCarthy insisted that meeting Tsai in California would not preclude a trip later to Taiwan, which enjoys wide bipartisan support in the US Congress.

Taiwan is a constant source of friction between Beijing and Washington. China staged military exercises around Taiwan in August following a visit to Taipei by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

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