Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen to transit in US, upsetting China

Ms Tsai on the phone with Mr Trump earlier this month. The protocol-breaking phone call was the closest a Taiwanese leader has come to getting formal recognition from Washington since 1979.
Ms Tsai on the phone with Mr Trump earlier this month. The protocol-breaking phone call was the closest a Taiwanese leader has come to getting formal recognition from Washington since 1979.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beijing urges Washington to block any such stopover and to abide by 'one China' policy

TAIPEI • Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen will pass through the United States when she visits Latin America next month, the Taiwan Foreign Ministry said yesterday, angering Beijing which urged Washington to block any such stopover.

China is deeply suspicious of Ms Tsai, thinking she wants to push for Taiwan's formal independence. Details of the stopovers will be disclosed before the end of this week, the Taiwanese ministry said.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Ms Tsai's intentions were clear and urged the United States not to let her in.

"We hope the US can abide by the 'one China' policy... and not let her pass through their border, not give any false signals to Taiwan independence forces, and through concrete actions safeguard overall US- China relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," Ms Hua Chunying told a briefing.

The transit details are being closely watched as Taiwan's media has speculated that Ms Tsai will seek to meet President-elect Donald Trump's transition team ahead of his Jan 20 inauguration.

Mr Trump angered China when he spoke to Ms Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration's commitment to Beijing's "one China" policy.

The protocol-breaking phone call lasted 10 minutes and was the closest a Taiwanese leader has come to getting formal recognition from Washington since the US established ties with China in 1979.

Ms Tsai's office has said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

She will leave Taiwan on Jan 7 and return on Jan 15. Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

The African state of Sao Tome and Principe broke ties with Taiwan last week and signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with China a few days later.

The Presidential Office on Wednesday dismissed as speculation media reports that Taiwan's ties with Honduras and Nicaragua are shaky. It stressed that relations with its Central American allies are solid.

It added that preparations for President Tsai's visit to the four Latin American countries have been progressing smoothly, reported Central News Agency.

Meanwhile, a top Taiwanese intelligence official yesterday urged the island's former agents not to travel to China, citing safety risks as relations with Beijing grow increasingly tense.

Mr Kuo Chung-hsin, deputy director of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, told reporters in Parliament that "the current atmosphere is not suitable" for former and retired intelligence officers to visit China.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan's Tsai to transit in US, upsetting China'. Print Edition | Subscribe