Taiwan's Vice President William Lai (R) speaks prior to his departure to Paraguay inside the Terminal of Taoyuan international Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, 12 August 2023. EFE-EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

China slams Taiwan VP’s US stopovers, threatens to respond

Beijing, Aug 13 (EFE).- China on Sunday condemned the transit stops in the United States that Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai Ching-te is scheduled to make during his trip to Paraguay and threatened to “take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Lai will make a stopover in New York on his way to Paraguay – one of the 13 countries that maintain official ties with Taiwan -, to attend President-elect Santiago Peña’s inauguration ceremony and will visit San Francisco on the way back.

“China firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the US and the Taiwan region. We firmly oppose any visit by ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists to the US in any name or under whatever pretext…China deplores and strongly condemns the US decision to arrange the so-called ‘stopover’ for Lai Ching-te,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Describing Lai, who is Taiwan’s ruling party’s presidential candidate in the upcoming election, as a “troublemaker” the ministry accused the US and Taiwanese authorities of arranging for Lai “to engage in political activities in the US in the name of having a ‘stopover’”.

“This seriously violates the one-China principle, gravely undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The fact once again shows that the fundamental cause of the continued tensions in the Taiwan Strait is the Taiwan authorities’ attempt to solicit US support for ‘Taiwan independence’ and that the US are bent on using Taiwan to contain China,” the ministry added.

The spokesperson urged the US to “stop all forms of official interaction with Taiwan” and “stop conniving at and supporting ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”

“China is closely following the developments of the situation and will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesperson concluded.

Taipei has tried to downplay Lai’s stopovers and asked Beijing not to overreact.

In April, China staged three-day military drills after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California while returning from a trip to Guatemala and Belize.

According to the Taiwanese government, China may hold maneuvers near Taiwan next week, using the stopover as a pretext to “intimidate” voters ahead of next year’s elections.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing escalated last summer on account of the visit of then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Chinese military planes have constantly crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait since that trip.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a territory it considers a “rebel province” since Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) forces withdrew there in 1949 after losing the civil war with the Communists.

The self-ruled island is one of the key sources of tension between China and the US, mainly because Washington is Taipei’s key arms supplier and could be its greatest military ally in the event of a war with China. EFE