Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen aims to shore up her government’s diplomatic ties with three of the self-ruled island’s remaining allies with a visit next week to Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands. Deputy foreign minister Hsu Szu-chien said talks were ongoing about a possible stopover in US territory – a move that would likely anger Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be brought back to the mainland fold, by force if necessary. The aim of the eight-day visit, starting on March 21, was to “deepen ties and friendly relations” with Taiwan’s Pacific allies, Hsu said. A person with knowledge of the matter said the stopover would most likely be in Guam or Hawaii, with the chance of at least one visit to US territory “very high”. China says Taiwan has no right to state-to-state relations. The island has formal ties with 17 countries, almost all small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, like Belize and Nauru. Taipei has accused Beijing of offering generous aid and loan packages to lure its allies away, accusations Beijing denies. Xi’s Taiwan tough talk backfires as Tsai’s support surges The United States, like other major powers, maintains a one-China policy that prevents formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but it is the island’s largest weapons supplier and most powerful international backer. That relationship has been boosted under US President Donald Trump, whose administration is eyeing more weapons sales and encouraging official exchanges. The US ambassador for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, during a visit to Taiwan on Monday, urged China to give its people religious freedom, which he said could help gain Taiwan’s trust. Brownback’s visit to Taipei was viewed by some in Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration. China’s hostility to Taiwan has grown since Tsai’s election as Beijing fears she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence. Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo but will defend Taiwan’s democracy. Beijing unlikely to try to poach Taiwan allies On Monday evening, Tsai called a national security meeting during which she urged the administration to counter Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “one country, two systems” proposal – the same formula for autonomy under sovereignty applied in Hong Kong – for reunification with Taiwan. Tsai called on government officials to come up with measures to counter what she described as China’s renewed efforts to interfere and to absorb Taiwan’s capital and talents. “The Beijing authorities continue to utilise our open and free system of democracy to interfere with Taiwan’s political, economic and social developments, which has become the biggest risk in Taiwan,” she said.