The chairman of Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang, Eric Chu Li-luan, is headed for the United States on an 11-day trip aimed at rebuilding ties with Washington. It comes after the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade was launched on Tuesday , a sign of Washington’s deepening relations with the self-ruled island that Beijing claims sovereignty over. Chu said he would meet US officials, academics and ethnic Taiwanese communities during stops in San Francisco, Washington, New York and Los Angeles. He will also reopen the KMT office in Washington. “The most important mission of my trip is to facilitate the KMT return to Washington, reopen its representative office, meet friends from US administrative departments, the Congress, political and academic institutions as well as think tanks,” Chu said at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Thursday before he left for the US. The party has not had a presence in Washington since 2008, when the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president and closed the US office. That was reportedly done to reduce the party’s connection with the US in order to engage Beijing as part of Ma’s more conciliatory approach towards mainland China. Chu on Thursday denied the KMT had tried to distance itself from the US. “We have never changed our US-friendly policy … and for a long time the [independence-leaning] Democratic Progressive Party has used its biased voice to fabricate rumours about the KMT’s US policy, distorting and damaging our image,” Chu said. But he said the KMT respected the ruling DPP’s work in the US. “Regardless of whose representative offices they are – the DPP, KMT or from the government – we should all work together to ensure safety in the Taiwan Strait as well as cross-strait peace and stability,” Chu said. He added that all parties should be working to promote economic and trade ties with the US, especially since the launch of the US-Taiwan initiative. Taiwan’s opposition KMT rushes to regain lost voice in the US The new initiative aims to develop concrete ways to boost bilateral economic and trade relations in the hope of eventually negotiating “high-standard” agreements, Taiwan’s Office of Trade Negotiation and the US Trade Representative’s Office said on Tuesday. During his stop in Washington, Chu is expected to deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution think tank outlining the KMT’s views on the cross-strait and Indo-Pacific situations in the next five to 10 years, according to Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, the party’s international affairs director. Huang – one of five KMT officials joining Chu on the US visit – said Washington would also be interested in hearing the party’s views on Taiwan’s military and developments in mainland China in the next five years and beyond. He said Chu would officially open the new KMT office in Washington on June 8.