On Sunday, August 13, China promised “firm and strong measures” against Taiwan’s vice president, William Lai, traveling to the United States this weekend, as he was stopping by to attend the inauguration of Paraguay’s president.
Lai – the favorite for next year’s presidential election in Taiwan – will officially make only one stop in the United States on his trip to attend the inauguration of Paraguay’s president-elect, Santiago Peña.
But the leader, who has a clear pro-independence stance, and thus displeases Beijing, could meet with US politicians during his stay in New York, where he is currently.
China considers Taiwan, an island with its own government, to be part of its territory and says it will one day return under its control, by force if necessary.
“China is closely monitoring the development of the situation and will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a State Department spokesperson, who was not named, said in a statement posted online.
“China resolutely opposes any form of official exchange between the United States and Taiwan, resolutely opposes separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ from entering the United States under any name or for any reason, and resolutely opposes any kind of official contact between the US government and the Taiwanese side.” .
In April, China conducted a three-day military exercise simulating a blockade operation on Taiwan after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California upon his return from a trip to Guatemala and Belize.
Landing in New York on Sunday, Lai said on the social network X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was greeted by members of the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as Al Jazeera’s representative in the United States.
“I am delighted to come to the Big Apple, a symbol of freedom, democracy and opportunity,” he said. “I look forward to seeing friends and participating in the New York Transit Program.”
The Taiwanese presidency released a video on Sunday of Lai’s arrival at a New York hotel, where he was greeted by supporters waving the flags typically used by Taiwanese independence supporters, along with American and Taiwanese flags.
After New York, Lai must go to Paraguay, one of the last countries to officially recognize Taipei, then stop on the way back to San Francisco.
Lai told X on Sunday that he plans to meet with the president of the American Institute in Taiwan, Laura Rosenberger, during his stopover in California.
William Lai is a candidate to succeed current President Tsai Ing-wen. Both are from the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP, pro-independence).
China views meetings in recent years between Taiwan leaders and representatives of certain Western countries, particularly the United States, with suspicion because they lend a semblance of legitimacy to the island’s authorities.
And the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, on Sunday, that “the United States and Taiwan, in collusion, allowed William Lai to carry out political activities in the United States under the pretext of ‘transit’.”
The State Department expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the visit of “troublemakers” William Lai.
The United States, which granted diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China in 1979, remains Taiwan’s staunchest ally and major arms supplier.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei soured in 2016 with the accession to the presidency of Tsai Ing-wen.
Unlike his predecessor and as demanded by Beijing, he refuses to regard the island and mainland China as part of the same “Chinese” entity. Since then, China has increased its diplomatic and economic pressure.
Lai has been more outspoken in support of independence than the current president.
The candidate described himself as a “pragmatist in favor of Taiwan independence” and this week asserted on a local TV program that the island “is not part of the People’s Republic of China.”