No stopover for Taiwan leader, China urges US

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaking at a conference organised by the island's Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei on Thursday.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaking at a conference organised by the island's Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President Tsai set to visit three Pacific island allies, transiting via Honolulu and Guam

BEIJING • China has urged the United States not to allow Taiwan's leader to travel through American territory en route to the Pacific, a sensitive trip coming ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to Beijing early next month.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is scheduled to leave today on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies - Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands - transiting via Honolulu and Guam.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. It also considers Taiwan to be the most sensitive and important issue between Beijing and Washington, and always complains to the US about transit stops by Taiwanese leaders.

Ms Tsai's trip comes less than two weeks before Mr Trump is due to visit China. He angered Beijing last December when he took a phone call from Ms Tsai shortly after he won the presidential election.

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

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

Ms Tsai, who leads the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, angered Beijing when she refused to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus after taking office in May last year. The Consensus is a tacit agreement that both China and Taiwan belong to one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what this means.

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At the same time, we have the ability, confidence and means to protect the country's unity, sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

DEFENCE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN REN GUOQIANG, who says Taiwan was a part of China and the military exercises would continue as normal, adding that China was sincere in seeking 'peaceful reunification'.

This led Beijing to suspend a regular dialogue mechanism with Taipei set up under Taiwan's previous, China-friendly government and drastically cut back on the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan.

It slowly peeled away Taipei's few remaining diplomatic allies. Just 20 countries now maintain formal ties with Taiwan, mostly small states in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

This year, China's air force has carried out several rounds of drills near Taiwan, prompting the island's air force to scramble fighters.

Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Taiwan was a part of China and the military exercises would continue as normal, adding that China was sincere in seeking "peaceful reunification".

"At the same time, we have the ability, confidence and means to protect the country's unity, sovereignty, security and territorial integrity," he told a monthly news conference in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping drew strong applause at last week's start of the Chinese Communist Party congress when he said any attempt to separate Taiwan from China would be thwarted.

On Thursday, Ms Tsai said the end of the week-long congress a day earlier signalled an "opportunity for change", and called for dialogue with Beijing.

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.

She visited the headquarters of Twitter Inc, which is blocked in China, while in California. In Houston, she met Republican senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

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.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'No stopover for Taiwan leader, China urges US'. Print Edition | Subscribe