TAIPEI/SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - China’s objection to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen passing through the United Sates enroute to Latin America next month has not delayed planning for the trip and transit locations will be announced in days, the presidential office said on Tuesday.
Tsai’s office said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order. She will leave Taiwan on Jan. 7 and return on Jan. 15.
When asked whether the transit stops would include the United States, Taiwan’s presidential office spokesman Alex Huang declined to comment.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, whom it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, and has called on the United States not to let her transit. Taiwan is a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.
President-elect Donald Trump angered Beijing this month by speaking to Tsai in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.
Huang said details of the transit stops would be disclosed in days as Taiwan’s foreign ministry was still working them out with foreign counterparts ahead of their Christmas and New Year holidays.
Asked if the planning or disclosure of the transit stops were being delayed due to pressure from China, Huang said: “No. That is over-speculation, there is no problem of that kind.”
The United States normally does not host Taiwan presidents because of Washington’s maintenance of the “one China” policy.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated that China hoped the United States would not allow Tsai to transit and “not send any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces”.
“As for the question of the leader of the Taiwan region possibly transiting the United States, I think her real aim needs no explanation,” Hua told a daily news briefing.
Transit stops are seen as unofficial and carried out under tight protocol. When Tsai visited Panama and other allies in June, a month after she took power, she transited in Miami and Los Angeles.
Taiwanese media has reported that Tsai would seek to meet Trump’s team during a possible transit stop. [nL4N1E14B1]
The 90-plus member delegation, traveling on a chartered aircraft with Tsai will include her national security council chief Joseph Wu and foreign minister David Lee, deputy foreign minister Javier Hou told a news conference.
China considers Taiwan independence a red line issue and it has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria in SAN SALVADOR and J.R. Wu in TAIPEI; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel