Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made a brief stopover in the United States on Sunday, but did not meet with President-elect Donald Trump or any members of his transition team during her stay on American soil.
Though, as a consolation prize, Tsai did meet with former Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. The Texas Senator has been one of the more vocal opponents of Beijing in the US Congress, proposing a bill to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington to “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.”
In a brief statement concerning his meeting with Tsai, Cruz scolded the Chinese consulate for delivering a “curious letter” asking Congress members not to meet with Tsai and to uphold the “one-China policy.”
“The People’s Republic of China needs to understand that in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves,” Cruz said.
“This is not about the PRC. This is about the US relationship with Taiwan, an ally we are legally bound to defend. The Chinese do not give us veto power over those with whom they meet. We will continue to meet with anyone, including the Taiwanese, as we see fit.”
Cruz said that he discussed “arms sales, diplomatic exchanges and economic relations” with Tsai who also met with Texas governor Greg Abbott.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 8, 2017
Tsai is passing through Texas on her way to visit some Central American allies this week. There are now just 21 countries in the world that maintain relations with the Republic of China after they yet lost another friend last month when the tiny West African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe severed ties with Taipei and promptly reestablished relations with Beijing in a move that appeared to have been timed to correspond with Tsai’s formal announcement of her Latin American trip.
However, details of her planned trip were leaked much earlier in December, causing China to call on the US to block Tsai from transiting through the country in order to avoid sending “any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.” Obviously, Washington declined to do so.
Following his protocol-shattering phone call with Tsai in December, there was speculation that Trump might try to meet with Tsai during her stopover in the US. However, these rumors were quickly squashed by Trump’s team. On New Year’s Eve, Trump himself was asked about meeting with Tsai, and seemed to be unaware of the trip.
“Nobody’s ever mentioned that to me,” he told reporters. “I’m not meeting with anybody until after January 20th, because it’s a little bit inappropriate from a protocol standpoint. But we’ll see.”
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