TAIPEI: Taiwan’s vice-president William Lai will visit the US next month, the government said today, making what are officially stopovers on his way to and from Paraguay but will give him the opportunity to meet US officials.
Taiwanese presidents and vice-presidents traditionally make transits of the US on trips to the few remaining countries still to maintain formal diplomatic ties with the Chinese-claimed island.
This trip will have extra significance as Lai is running to succeed President Tsai Ing-wen at Taiwan’s next election in January, and presidential candidates generally visit the US ahead of the vote to discuss their run with officials there. Lai is currently leading in most opinion polls.
Taiwan’s presidential office said Lai would arrive in Paraguay on Aug 14, the day before Santiago Pena is sworn in as the country’s next president.
Speaking to reporters, Taiwan’s vice foreign minister Alexander Yui said Lai would transit the US, but details would come later, as was the custom for previous Latin American trips.
Such transits infuriate China. In April, China staged war games around Taiwan after Tsai met US House speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles while on her way back from Central America.
Asked whether the government was worried about the Chinese reaction to Lai’s US visit or whether it would prompt more Chinese war games, Yui said that was the “usual practice” to make such stopovers.
“There is no reason or cause for it to create commotion,” he said.
Pena, Paraguay’s president-elect, visited Taiwan last week and met both Lai and Tsai, who cannot run for office again after serving two terms.
Paraguay is one of just 13 countries to retain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.