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Taiwan

Beijing casts wary eye as Taiwan’s president makes stopover in the US

Tsai Ing-wen’s brief stay in San Francisco comes as president-elect Donald Trump repeats that he may drop US support for the one-China policy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 11:02pm

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has stopped over in San Francisco on her return from a tour of the island’s Central American allies, with Beijing watching closely to see if she meets with members of Donald Trump’s transition team.

Beijing is concerned that Trump may jettison decades of US policy and drop support for the one-China policy which states that Taiwan is part of China.

The US president-elect said in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday that he would not commit to the policy until he saw progress from Beijing in curbing what he alleges are currency manipulation and unfair trade practices. Beijing was also angered after Trump took a call from Tsai in December to congratulate him on his election victory.

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It is not clear if Tsai will meet with any US officials in San Francisco before returning to Taiwan.

She was met at the city’s airport by James Moriarty, the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, which handles relations between the US and the island in the place of formal diplomatic ties.

Tsai did meet with several US dignitaries in Houston during a brief stopover in Houston on her way to Central America. The officials included the Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

A spokeswoman for Trump said earlier this month none of his officials would meet with Tsai during her stopovers on US soil.

But it was later revealed she spoke by phone in Houston with the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation think tank Edwin Feulner, who is a Trump adviser.

After arriving in San Francisco, Moriarty accompanied Tsai to her hotel where a red banner of welcome was hung and US and Taiwan flags flanked the sides of its entrance, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

Several hundred supporters greeted her enthusiastically despite the chilly weather, according to the report.

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Tsai was scheduled to visit technology companies and attend a lunch on Saturday with Taiwanese citizens before returning to Taiwan in the afternoon, the report added.

Tsai’s overnight stay in San Francisco came as Ed Royce, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he and other pro-Taiwan members of the US Congress had introduced legislation on Friday that encourages more links between the United States and the island.

“By encouraging more frequent visits between our two governments, including at the highest levels, we will further strengthen the critical US-Taiwan partnership,” Taiwanese media quoted him as saying in a statement.

The Taiwan Travel Act, if passed by Congress, is likely to further anger Beijing.

The mainland government considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province and it has warned other countries against forging official ties with Taipei or directly dealing with the island’s leaders.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said last week that China firmly opposed any contact between Taiwan’s leader and officials in the US government.

He said any such moves threatened to harm ties between Beijing and Washington.