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Taiwan

Taiwanese president to transit in Houston and San Francisco on way to Latin America

Beijing has expressed its displeasure, urging the United States to block Tsai Ing-wen’s stopovers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 11:13pm

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will transit through Houston and San Francisco during her January visit to allies in Latin American countries, her office said on Friday, a move certain to anger mainland China which a day earlier urged the United States to block a stopover.

Tsai is transiting in the US on her way to and from visiting Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. She will leave Taiwan on January 7 and return on January 15.

Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang would not comment when asked if Tsai would meet members of US president-elect Donald Trump’s team while in the country.

Trump angered China when he spoke to 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.

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Tsai’s transit is based on common practice, the de facto US embassy in Taiwan said on Friday.

“President Tsai’s transit through the United States is based on long-standing US practice and is consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan,” said Alys Spensley, acting spokeswoman for the American Institute in Taiwan.

“There is no change to the US’ one-China policy,” she added.

Beijing earlier said 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,” Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, told a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

Any strategy by Beijing to leave Taiwan stripped of allies may well backfire

Cross-strait ties have deteriorated since Tsai from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party was inaugurated in May. Beijing cut off official communications with Taipei, but maintained contact with the mainland-friendly Kuomintang.

It also warned Washington to deal with the one-China principle cautiously, or the basis of Sino-US cooperation would be jeopardised.

Beijing has also squeezed Taiwan’s international space. One of Taiwan’s allies, Sao Tome and Príncipe in West Africa, has established diplomatic relations with Beijing, cutting its ties with Taipei.

Taipei said it could not fulfil the financial needs of the West African nation and accused Beijing of using chequebook diplomacy, but the mainland denied it is using its financial muscle to buy partners.