Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai left for a sensitive trip to the US on Saturday, in a move that raised fears it could spark more Chinese military exercises near the island. democratically.
Lai is expected to make stops in New York and San Francisco before continuing the trip to Paraguay. The Latin American country is one of the few countries that still maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
“Leaving soon for #Asuncion to attend [president-elect Santiago Pena’s] inauguration and extend to him and the people of #Paraguay the best wishes of [Taiwan],” Lai posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “[E]xcited to meet friends in #US traveling.”
Lai, a member of the center-left Democratic Progressive Party, is a frontrunner in Taiwan’s presidential vote next year.
China rejected the visit, while Taiwan said it was ‘nothing special’
Mainland China condemned Lai’s stops and said the politician was promoting separatism in Taiwan. China views Taiwan as part of its territory, and believes that travel to the US gives Taiwan an aura of legitimacy.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry called on Washington to “follow the principle of One-China … and to stop official exchanges between the US and Taiwan.”
As part of the One China policy, the US recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China. At the same time, the US is informally assisting Taiwan and providing assistance to the island in accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
Taiwan, meanwhile, defended the visit and said Taiwanese vice presidents had traveled to the US many times before. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jeff Liu said Lai’s stop was “nothing special.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a stopover in the US in April, drawing similar ire from Beijing.
But Lai’s visit to the US could result in increased tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwanese authorities have argued that China could use Lai’s stops in the US as a pretext for more military maneuvers in the region.
wd/ab (Reuters, AFP)