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China criticizes the upcoming US visit of Taiwan’s ‘separatist’ presidential front-runner

China has criticized an upcoming stopover in the United States by Taiwan’s vice president and presidential front-runner William Lai as a challenge to its territorial integrity, while Taiwan says it’s merely a transit stop

BySIMINA MISTREANU Associated Press

Taiwan Paraguay

In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Paraguay’s president-elect Santiago Pena, left, shakes hands with Taiwan’s Vice President in William Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

The Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China has criticized an upcoming stopover in the United States by Taiwan’s vice president and presidential front-runner William Lai as a challenge to its territorial integrity, while Taiwan says it’s merely a transit stop.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be retaken by force if necessary and prohibits its diplomatic partners – including the U.S. – from having formal ties with Taipei. While not recognizing Taiwan as a country, Washington maintains robust unofficial ties and has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself in case of an invasion.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told a briefing in Beijing that China had lodged formal protests with the U.S. over Lai’s visit next month.

“China is firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan,” spokeswoman Mao Ning said. “We firmly reject Taiwan independence separatists visiting the U.S. under any name and for any reason, as well as any form of the U.S. connivance and support of the Taiwan independence separatists and their separatist activities.”

“China will closely monitor developments and take resolute and forceful measures to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she added.

Lai is expected to stop in the U.S. as part of a trip to attend the inauguration of Paraguay’s new president, Santiago Pena, on Aug. 15. Taiwan’s presidential palace announced Monday that Lai’s delegation would arrive in Paraguay on Aug. 14.

Taiwan’s leaders have traditionally stopped in the U.S. en route to visiting some of Taiwan’s remaining 13 diplomatic allies, a handful of which are countries in Latin America.

The Taiwanese delegations usually hold meetings with U.S. officials during these stops, angering Beijing.

China launched war games around Taiwan in April after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles while on her way back from Central America.

Lai’s upcoming U.S. trip is especially symbolic because he has topped most polls as a favorite to win the January presidential election.

China sees both Tsai and Lai as separatists and has refused to talk with them.

Taiwan’s presidential palace did not give details about Lai’s visit to the U.S., but Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Tah-ray Yui told reporters the trip would “be planned according to precedent set by previous trips to South and Central America, for which transit stops in the U.S. were arranged.”

He added the “transit stops” were meant to ensure “comfort, convenience, safety and dignity.”

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