The Taiwanese president is on her way to the U.S., but she will not meet with President-elect Donald Trump or his transition team during her brief stay in the country.
President Tsai Ing-wen departed for the U.S. Saturday and will stop in Houston before moving on to Latin America. She will pass through San Francisco during her return trip. Beijing has twice protested the planned stopover, calling on the U.S. to prevent her entry into the country. China is deeply concerned that Tsai will attempt to secure ties with the incoming administration in preparation for an independence movement.
The U.S. rejected China’s requests. The Department of State said the planned transit stop is a “long-standing U.S. practice, consistent with the unofficial nature of U.S. relations with Taiwan.”
Beijing may be able to breathe a little easier. Jessica Ditto, a Trump transition team official, said in an email Saturday that neither the president-elect nor his team will meet with Tsai during her transit stop in the U.S.
China will likely still watch the Taiwanese president’s visit carefully.
“The so-called transit diplomacy is only a petty trick played by the Taiwan leader, whose hidden political agenda should be clear to all,” explained Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang during a press conference in early December.
Trump rattled Beijing last month by accepting a phone call from Tsai in a surprising break with decades of diplomatic protocol. He then doubled down by questioning the one-China policy.
Beijing feared that Trump might take things a step further.
“I’m not meeting with anybody until after Jan. 20, because it’s a little bit inappropriate from a protocol standpoint. But we’ll see,” Trump explained to reporters in an interview New Year’s Eve.
“A transit is a transit,” Tsai said last week in response to questions about whether or not she would meet with Trump.
“I’m confident that both Taiwan and the U.S. want this transit to be low profile,” Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told reporters.
“There is nothing to be gained by irritating Beijing,” she added.
Tsai plans to visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador to strengthen relations with the dwindling number of countries that recognize Taiwan and “show the international community that Taiwan is a competent and responsible partner.”
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