Taipei – Taiwan’s Vice President, William Lai, embarked on a sensitive journey to the United States on Saturday, eliciting ire from Chinese officials. The visit comes amidst heightened tensions, as China claims the democratic island and has escalated both political and military pressure, vowing to eventually seize the territory, even by force if deemed necessary.
China consistently opposes official exchanges between Taiwan and other nations, frequently reacting strongly to Taiwanese leaders’ layovers in the US. Lai, who is a contender in Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election next year, is officially making transit stops in the United States en route to and from Paraguay. His Paraguay visit is in connection with attending the country’s inauguration.
Speaking to reporters before boarding his flight on Saturday afternoon, Lai expressed his intention to engage with leaders from various countries and meet delegations from like-minded nations during his stay in Paraguay. “I will inform the international community about our relentless efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Lai stated. Earlier in the day, he had also tweeted his enthusiasm for meeting friends in the US during his transit.
In response to Lai’s journey, Laura Rosenberger, Chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy for Taiwan based in Virginia, conveyed anticipation for Lai’s arrival. Lai is expected to land in New York City en route to Paraguay and in San Francisco on his return journey.
China’s foreign minister had urged US leaders to adhere to the One China policy and halt official exchanges between the US and Taiwan just last week. Prior to Lai’s departure, Taiwan attempted to downplay the trip’s significance. Foreign Minister spokesperson Jeff Liu emphasized that Vice President transits in the US had occurred 11 times before, making this trip nothing out of the ordinary.