China has urged the United States to block Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from transiting through the US on her way to Central America next month.
Tsai’s travel plans come at a particularly sensitive time in cross-strait relations following a phone call last Friday between President-elect Donald Trump and Tsai that shattered 35 years of US foreign policy protocol.
After the call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed the Taiwanese side for shady “shenanigans” preying on Trump’s total lack of foreign policy experience. Already deeply distrustful of Tsai for her refusal to accept the “one China” principle, Beijing has become more suspicious than ever about the independence-leaning Taiwanese leader.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement sent to Reuters, when Tsai visits Guatemala next month (Jan 11-12), Beijing hopes that the US will “not send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces” by letting her transit through the country.
“As for the issue you raise of a ‘transit’ in the United States by the leader of the Taiwan region, her real aim is self-evident,” the ministry said.
To get to Guatemala, Liberty Times reports that Tsai was planning to transit through New York — the norm for these kind of trips. That transit would just so happen to take place just before Trump takes office. An adviser to Trump’s transition team said that it “very unlikely” Tsai and Trump would hold a meeting in New York.
The trip has not yet been officially confirmed; however, it is likely to include visits to Taiwan’s other allies in Central America. Only 22 countries or entities around the world still have full diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, most of which are located in Latin America.
Yesterday, Tsai finally broke her silence about the controversial phone call that was the first direct conversation between an American president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader since 1979. Tsai tried to downplay the conversation by saying it didn’t reflect a change in Washington’s cross-strait policy.
“I do not foresee major policy shifts in the near future because we all see the value of stability in the region,” Tsai was quoted by The Washington Post as saying.
The White House has also tried to downplay the call, crediting the “one-China” policy with creating stable and peaceful relations in the region, and saying that Trump’s call had not changed the US position.
US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner also said that he had no information on whether Tsai would meet with American officials while transiting through the US.
“What I can say about that is that that kind of transit is based on long-standing US practice, and it’s consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan,” Toner told a regular media briefing.
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