SHANGHAI – Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen began on Sunday an official tour of allied countries Paraguay and Belize, with stopovers in Los Angeles and Houston, despite Chinese opposition.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported on Sunday that Tsai is scheduled to land in Los Angeles around noon the same day before flying to Paraguay on Monday.
This is Tsai’s fifth diplomatic tour since she took office in May 2016 and one item on her agenda is to attend the inauguration of Paraguayan President-elect, Mario Abdo Benitez, on Aug. 15.
After the announcement of her official tour by the Taiwanese foreign ministry in July, the Chinese government urged the US not to allow Tsai to stopover in its territory.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Geng Shuang had then said that a formal protest had been sent to Washington to prevent any kind of stopover by Tsai in the US or any other of China’s allied countries.
Geng also called on the US to respect the “one China” principle and avoid sending misleading signals to Taiwanese pro-independence forces.
This will mark Tsai’s first layover trip in the US since President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March that would allow top-level officials from both countries to make bilateral visits.
Earlier US policy did not allow bilateral visits by cabinet ministers, but permitted Taiwanese presidents to travel through US cities during visits to third countries.
This is Tsai’s second official trip to Paraguay, Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America and the first to Belize, which is also an ally of the island nation.
During her stay in Paraguay, Tsai is to meet with the President-elect and also with political leaders of allied countries attending the inauguration ceremony.
Taiwan maintains diplomatic ties with 18 countries, 10 of them located in Latin America and the Caribbean, which shows the importance of the region in the island nation’s foreign relations.
However, within just over a year Taiwan lost two prominent Latin American allies: Panama and the Dominican Republic, who have currently established diplomatic relations with China, similar to Burkina Faso.
Tsai is expected to depart from Asuncion for Belmopan (Belize) on Aug. 16 and remain there until Aug. 18 where she is scheduled to meet with Governor-General Colville Young and Prime Minister Dean Barrow, as well as making a speech at the Belizean Parliament.
She is set to return to Taiwan on Aug. 20 and will make a stop in Houston on her way back, although her activities in the US are not yet known.