Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s controversial trip to Central America | Political News

Taipei, Taiwan – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will set off on a 10-day trip to Central America on Wednesday, with two planned stops in the United States, where she is expected to meet with congressional leaders including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Tsai is on official state visits to Guatemala and Belize — Taiwan’s only two remaining diplomatic allies — but her time in the United States is likely to receive the most scrutiny, albeit unofficially.

The United States does not officially recognize Taiwan, which is officially known as the Republic of China (ROC) because Beijing also claims sovereignty over the island, but Washington remains a key ally of the democratically governed nation.

The Taiwanese president is expected to speak on March 30 in New York, hosted by the Hudson Institute, an American conservative think tank, on his way to Latin America, and then again at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California when he returns to Asia in April give a speech.

Huang Guibo, an associate professor of diplomacy, said that it is an unspoken rule that Taiwan’s president does not pay an official visit to the United States or go to the capital Washington, D.C., but “transit stations” have become more and more complicated in recent years at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

“In the past, the president could not give public speeches in the United States, nor could he have public contact with American politicians,” Huang said.

“Now, the president can do that, but the U.S. executive branch still doesn’t allow officials to meet with or participate in activities with the president of the Republic of China in the United States.”

The 2018 Taiwan travel law passed by the Trump administration also made it easier for Taiwanese and U.S. officials to meet, as Taiwan and the U.S. grew closer amid weakening cross-strait relations.

Since taking office in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen has visited the United States four times, during which she met with Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, each time more formal than the last.

However, there are limitations.

Tsai’s U.S. trip is still widely seen as a temporary solution to McCarthy’s visit to Taiwan, as both sides want to avoid angering China, which has held military exercises in the Taiwan Strait for several days and fired missiles in protest of its predecessor’s visit last year. Nancy Pelosi. The trip is the highest-level visit by a US official in 25 years.

But neither Taipei nor Washington wanted to show surrender to Beijing’s threats by canceling McCarthy’s trip entirely.

Taiwan’s presidential office confirmed the date of Tsai’s visit but did not set an itinerary, while Beijing expressed “serious concern” at learning that Tsai would visit the US and objected.

“At a time when critics of the Tsai Ing-wen administration and the CCP are working hard to sow doubts about the reliability and commitment of the United States as a partner for Taiwan, such visits reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan,” said U.S. Ambassador to Taiwan J. Michael Cole (J Michael Cole) said. Advisor to the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Taipei.

Taiwan’s transition period?

Tsai’s trip comes at a difficult time for Taiwan, which lost diplomatic recognition to Honduras on Sunday and is left with just 13 diplomatic allies around the world, including the Holy See in Rome.

Tsai Ing-wen was alone when she took office in 2016, and China continued to encroach on Taiwan’s official partners, including Panama, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

While relations with China are often tense, Beijing particularly dislikes Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which considers Taiwan a de facto independent state, although they have not declared full independence to avoid war with China.

As Taiwan begins preparations for its next presidential election in January 2024, its future is once again on the national agenda — and Taiwan’s political leaders, in addition to Tsai, are also acting.

Ke Wenzhe, the former mayor of Taipei and chairman of Taiwan’s People’s Party, will visit the United States in April as part of an open bid for the presidency.

As Tsai visits the US, her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a heavyweight in the Nationalist Party (KMT), traveled to China on Monday to visit graves and meet Taiwanese students.

While Kuomintang leaders often visit China, Ma’s visit was groundbreaking because he became the first former or current Taiwanese president to visit China since the ROC and PRC split in 1949.

“Given the timing — after Honduras and Xi met a war criminal in the Kremlin — there is reason to believe the timing of the visit is ill-advised and could end up hurting the KMT ahead of the 2024 elections,” said IRI’s Cole.

The KMT is seen in Taiwan as friendlier to China than Tsai Ing-wen or the DPP, and Ma’s visit sends a signal to voters that the KMT is ready and able to negotiate with Beijing after years of deteriorating relations, said former KMT lawmaker Jason Xu. Hsu, a lawmaker and senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Kuomintang, which includes Ma Ying-jeou, may take advantage of voters who want change.

“Jack Ma wants to act as a peace envoy and communicate with Chinese leaders,” Xu said.

“Ma is trying to offer the Chinese leaders a way that the Kuomintang may return to power in 2024, and the Kuomintang can handle the relationship better than the DPP,” he said.

“So they’re trying to offer some reassurance to the Chinese leaders, ‘Don’t be so aggressive with Taiwan, and if the KMT comes back to power, there can be more communication,'” he added.

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