China urges US to prevent Taiwan President Tsai from travelling through US territory ahead of Trump visit

President Tsai Ing-wen leaves on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies - Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands - via Honolulu and Guam.
President Tsai Ing-wen leaves on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies - Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands - via Honolulu and Guam.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING/TAIPEI (REUTERS) - China urged the United States on Friday (Oct 27) not to allow Taiwan's President to travel through US territory en route to the island's diplomatic allies in the Pacific, a sensitive visit shortly ahead of US President Donald Trump's trip to Beijing.

China considers democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province ineligible for state-to-state relations, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

China regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue between it and the US, and Beijing always complains to Washington about transit stops by Taiwanese presidents.

President Tsai Ing-wen leaves on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies - Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands - via Honolulu and Guam.

In a statement on Friday, a Taiwanese government spokesman said Ms Tsai's trip was aimed at strengthening ties with friendly nations and also to provide support for the island's frontline diplomats.

It said Taiwan was grateful to the US for helping to arrange the stopovers "in accordance with comfort, safety, convenience and dignity principles".

Ms Grace Choi, the State Department spokesman for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Ms Tsai would transit Hawaii on Oct 27-29 and Guam on Nov 3-4.

Ms Choi said Ms Tsai's transits would be "private and unofficial" and were based on long-standing US practice consistent with"our unofficial relations with Taiwan".

She noted the transits were out of consideration for the safety and convenience of the traveller and there was "no change to the US one China policy".

Ambassador James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, the organisation that carries out unofficial US relations with Taiwan, will greet Ms Tsai in Hawaii and Guam, Ms Choi said.

Mr Trump is due to visit China in less than two weeks. He angered Beijing last December by taking a telephone call from Ms Tsai shortly after he won the presidential election.

China has made "stern representations" to the US over the matter, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, urging the US to strictly abide by the "one China"policy.

China hopes the US does not allow Ms Tsai "to transit, not send any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces and take real actions to protect the overall picture of China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait", Mr Geng told a news briefing.

The trip to the US will be Ms Tsai's second this year. In January, she stopped over in Houston and San Francisco on her way to and from Latin America, visiting the headquarters of micro-messaging service Twitter Inc, which is blocked in China, while in California.

In Houston, she met Republican US Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. She also spoke by telephone with US Senator John McCain, head of the powerful Senate Committee on Armed Services.

China suspects Ms Tsai wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a red line for Beijing. Ms Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China, but will defend Taiwan's democracy and security.

China has pressured Taiwan since Ms Tsai took office last year, suspending a regular dialogue mechanism and slowly peeling away its few remaining diplomatic allies.

Just 20 countries now maintain formal ties with Taiwan, instead of China, mostly small states in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The US has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island's main source of arms.

Ms Tsai's call with Mr Trump was the first between US and Taiwan leaders since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979.