Taiwan President Tsai arrives in Hawaii despite China's objections

President Tsai Ing-wen (centre) making a speech before departing to visit three South Pacific allies at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan County, Taiwan.
President Tsai Ing-wen (centre) making a speech before departing to visit three South Pacific allies at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. PHOTO: TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE

HONOLULU, HAWAII (REUTERS) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen landed in Honolulu on Saturday (Oct 28) en route to the island's diplomatic allies among Pacific nations and is expected to visit a Pearl Harbour memorial, despite strong objections to the visit from China.

China regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue between it and the United States, and Beijing complains to Washington about transit stops by Taiwanese presidents. China considers Taiwan to be a wayward province.

Ms Tsai left on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies - Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands - via Honolulu and the US territory of Guam.

Earlier this week, the US State Department said Ms Tsai's transits through US soil would be "private and unofficial" and were based on long-standing US practise consistent with "our unofficial relations with Taiwan".

It noted there was "no change to the US one China policy".

While in Hawaii, Ms Tsai is expected to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the battleship sunk in Pearl Harbour in the Second World War.

The memorial now forms a centrepiece of the World War Two Valour in the Pacific National Monument, a historic site administered by the National Park Service.

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.

US President Donald 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.

The trip to the United States is 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 Twitter , which is blocked in China.