HONOLULU • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen landed in Honolulu last Saturday en route to the island's diplomatic allies among Pacific nations and set off for a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, despite strong objections to the visit from China.
China regards self-ruled Taiwan as sovereign territory and regularly calls it the most sensitive and important issue between it and the United States, complaining to Washington about transit stops by Taiwanese presidents. China has not renounced the possible use of force to bring the island under its control.
Ms Tsai, who China believes is seeking formal independence for Taiwan, left last 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.
For her part, Ms Tsai said she wants to maintain peace with China, but will defend Taiwan's democracy and security.
Earlier this week, the US State Department said Ms Tsai's transits through US soil would be "private and unofficial" and were based on longstanding US practice consistent with "our unofficial relations with Taiwan".
It noted there was "no change to the US one-China policy" which recognises that Beijing takes the view that there is only one China, and Taiwan is part of it.
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 US 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.