Taiwan's leader navigates sensitive US stopover with visit to Twitter

Ms Tsai leaving a hotel in California last Saturday to return to Taiwan. She spent a week visiting Central America, but it was her US stopovers that raised more interest.
Ms Tsai leaving a hotel in California last Saturday to return to Taiwan. She spent a week visiting Central America, but it was her US stopovers that raised more interest.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, carving a careful diplomatic path on her stopovers in the United States, visited the headquarters of micro-messaging service Twitter at the weekend and reactivated an old account.

"Had a great visit to @Twitter HQ today. Thank you to #vijaya and team for showing us around!" read her first tweet from her old account in over two years. Previously she tweeted in Chinese.

A source at the meeting said Ms Tsai met Twitter general counsel Vijaya Gadde, and that chief executive and co-founder Jack Dorsey was not present.

Pictures of the visit posted online showed the President reactivating her presence on the messaging service and posing in front of the famous photo that crashed Twitter: 2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres' "wefie" with Hollywood celebrities.

Ms Tsai was returning from a week-long visit to Central America. But it was her stopovers in the US that raised more interest after President-elect Donald Trump said last month that he would reconsider the longstanding one-China policy.

Ms Tsai made a stopover in Houston on Jan 7-8 before heading to Taiwan's four diplomatic allies in Central America: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

She arrived last Friday night in San Francisco on her way back home. More than a hundred people were gathered outside the Hyatt Regency near San Francisco International Airport, some to protest and some to support the President.

She wound up her trip with a lunch for 800 people from the Taiwanese community before her departure for Taiwan on Saturday afternoon.

China had asked the US not to allow her to transit in the US or have formal government meetings. Beijing is deeply suspicious of Ms Tsai, who it believes is seeking formal independence from the mainland.

Ms Tsai did not appear to have met any representatives of the Trump team during her short US stays. But in Houston last Sunday, she met Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott and sparked more ire in Beijing.

Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said Ms Tsai spoke with a few American friends of Taiwan by phone during her San Francisco stopover. According to the Central News Agency, Mr Huang revealed only one name: US Senator Cory Gardner.

Mr Gardner told Ms Tsai that he asked Mr Trump's nominee for secretary of state - former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson - to reaffirm the US commitment to Taiwan, based on the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, during Mr Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing last Wednesday.

Ms Tsai thanked Mr Gardner and the US for their support for Taiwan and invited the Republican senator to visit the island.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2017, with the headline 'Taiwan's leader navigates sensitive US stopover with visit to Twitter'. Print Edition | Subscribe