New DPP chief Tsai Ing-wen in US on first foreign trip

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 May, 2015, 6:38am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 May, 2015, 6:38am

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman, Dr Tsai Ing-wen, has arrived in the US for a 12-day visit, her first foreign trip since being nominated by her party to stand in the January presidential election.

She was greeted by more than 100 supporters at the airport in Los Angeles.

A focus point of her trip is whether she will further explain her cross-strait policy, which she has summed up as being "to maintain the status quo".

However, many, including President Ma Ying-jeou, have asked her to clarify what she means by that and how that goal is to be achieved if neither she nor her party recognises the "1992 consensus" that Ma and his Kuomintang consider to form the basis of cross-strait negotiations and agreements.

The reference is to a consensus said to have been reached between the KMT and the Communist Party of China in 1992 that there is only one China and that each side can interpret in its own way what that means.

Tsai's 12-day trip will take her to six cities in the United States: Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, New York, Houston and San Francisco.

During her five-day stay in Washington, Tsai will give a talk at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, attend a welcoming cocktail party at the House of Committee on Foreign Affairs, visit the US-Taiwan Business Council and meet former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

With the KMT struggling at the polls, many think Tsai stands a good chance of becoming Taiwan's first woman president on her second try. She lost to Ma in 2012. Tsai's loss in 2012 was seen largely due to her cross-strait policy, which was not endorsed by big Taiwanese businesses that operate on mainland China.

A former US official who criticised Tsai's cross-strait policy as impractical just one day before the 2012 vote was also considered to have played a role in swinging the vote to Ma, who was seeking re-election after winning the 2008 poll on a platform of friendlier ties with Beijing.

Determined to win over US support during the trip, Tsai has been preparing for it since before she was officially nominated in April.

After receiving the official nod from her party, Tsai said she realised the importance of the island's relationship with mainland China and promised to make efforts to "maintain the status quo" across the Taiwan Strait.

Criticising Ma for forging closer ties with Beijing mainly through interaction between his party and the Communist Party of China, Tsai said if elected she would reset the bearings of cross-strait ties pivoting on the will of the Taiwanese people.