Taiwan V-P William Lai to make US stopovers during Honduras visit

Taiwan's Vice President William Lai will speak with US officials over the phone or by video conference during the layovers. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan said on Thursday (Jan 20) its Vice-President will transit in the United States on his way to the inauguration of Honduras' President-Elect.

Travel for Taiwanese officials regularly involves a stopover in a US state - a move that typically provokes a rebuke from China.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified by force, if necessary.

Next week, Taiwan's Vice President William Lai will lead a 26-member delegation to attend Ms Xiomara Castro's inauguration in Honduras, said presidential office spokesman Xavier Chang in a statement on Thursday (Jan 20). The onward journey will involve a stopover in the US city of Los Angeles.

"On return, (the delegation) will stop in San Francisco for the night," Mr Chang added.

Mr Lai will speak with US officials over the phone or by video conference during the layovers, though the spokesman did not specify who.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday reiterated Beijing's position on US stopovers for Taiwanese officials.

"China has always firmly opposed the United States or other countries - that have established diplomatic relations with China - arranging such transits, and has always opposed any form of official exchanges with Taiwan," he said.

Mr Lai's attendance of Ms Castro's inauguration comes after the President-Elect said during her campaign that she would "immediately open diplomatic and commercial relations with mainland China" if she won.

Taiwan's government has said Mr Lai is scheduled to hold a meeting with Ms Castro "to exchange views on issues of mutual concern" during the six-day visit.

Honduras is among just 14 countries that recognise Taiwan.

China has stepped up pressure to win away Taiwan's remaining allies, especially in Central America and the Caribbean. Last month, China and Nicaragua re-established diplomatic ties after the Central American country broke relations with Taiwan.

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