Taiwanese president lands on US soil in face of protests from Beijing
Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Hawaii flies in face of objections from mainland Chinese authorities who fear she may push for independence
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen landed in Hawaii on Saturday en route to a visit to Taipei’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific despite strong objections from Beijing.
Beijing regards self-ruled Taiwan as its 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.
Tsai, who China believes is seeking formal independence for Taiwan, left on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific allies – Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands – via Honolulu and the US territory of Guam.
For her part, Tsai has said she wants to maintain peace with Beijing but will defend Taiwan’s democracy and security.
Earlier this week, the US State Department said Tsai’s transits through American soil would be “private and unofficial” and were based on long-standing 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.
On Saturday afternoon, Tsai, accompanied by her entourage and members of the media, left on a short boat ride for the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the battleship sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour that brought the US into the second world war.
The memorial, where Tsai was expected to lay a wreath, now forms the centrepiece of a US national monument to the war in the Pacific.
US President Donald Trump is due to visit China in less than two weeks. He angered Beijing in December by taking a telephone call from Tsai soon after he won the presidential election.
The trip to the United States is 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, which is blocked in mainland China.
Beijing has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s communist forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang fled to the island.