Taiwan’s Vice President Schedules a Tense Visit to the United States.
TAIPEI—Taiwan’s vice president
plans to visit the U.S. in August, less than five months after a similar trip by the island democracy’s president sparked an angry response from Beijing and accelerated a deterioration in Sino-American ties.
Lai Ching-te will stop in the U.S. on his way to and from attending the inauguration of Paraguay’s president next month, a top Taiwan Foreign Ministry official said at a news briefing on Monday. The official didn’t offer further information on Lai’s itinerary while he is in the U.S. For More Information….
Such trips are often sensitive given China’s hostility to American support for Taiwan. This visit is particularly tricky for the Biden administration since Lai is campaigning for president and is deeply distrusted by Beijing.
Lai’s trip and his candidacy further complicate tentative attempts by Washington and Beijing to restore high-level contacts and stabilize ties after months of rancor. Taiwan a democratic partner of the US that is claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, has been at the center of those tensions.
Officially, Lai’s trip is known as a transit,
in keeping with decades-old commitments by Washington to Beijing not to maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Transit stops by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in New York and the Los Angeles area this spring drew stern warnings from Beijing and revived concerns that China would stage threatening military exercises in response, as it did after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island last August.
In the end, Tsai kept her public remarks limited and mostly muted, including in a meeting with Pelosi’s Republican successor as speaker, Kevin McCarthy, while Beijing conducted smaller-scale exercises.
Lai’s candidacy to succeed Tsai, however, is stirring anxiety in Beijing and causing some concern in Washington too. While both are from the Democratic Progressive Party, Lai is seen as more aggressive in asserting Taiwan’s independence, which is a red line for Beijing. During Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing last month Chinese officials expressed concerns that Lai’s positions would aggravate US China ties.
On the campaign trail last Monday, Lai said Taiwan aspires to have a closer relationship with Washington, looking to the day when “the president of Taiwan can walk into the White House.” The remark drew attention from the Biden administration, because a White House meeting would renege on past commitments to Beijing and upend the status quo.
As a candidate, Lai has pledged to be pragmatic in approaching relations with China and promised to uphold the status quo. In a campaign speech on Sunday, he expressed a willingness to communicate with Beijing “under the principle of equality and dignity.”
Hou Yu-ih, the candidate for Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, hasn’t confirmed whether he plans to visit the U.S. A third candidate, Ko Wenje, the centrist former mayor of Taipei, was in Washington earlier this year. In their campaigns, both have made relaxing tensions with Beijing a priority.