Taiwan’s VP Lai returns home after Paraguay trip, US stopover

Beijing, Aug 18 (EFE).- Taiwan Vice President William Lai returned to Taipei on Friday after a trip to Paraguay, during which he stopped over in the United States, sparking protests from China.

Lai, who will be the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s 2024 presidential candidate, was in Paraguay to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Santiago Peña as the new president of the South American country.

Lai told reporters that he met with Peña, and the two countries agreed to continue deepening trade and diplomatic ties, with initial plans for new partnerships on electric vehicles, food processing, and textiles.

Lai stopped in New York on Saturday during his trip to Paraguay – one of the 13 countries with official ties with Taiwan.

On Wednesday, he stopped again in San Francisco before returning to Taipei.

China condemned the stopovers and warned it would take “strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

However, unlike previous visits of Taiwan officials, Lai did not meet with US officials and kept the stopovers in America low profile to avoid confronting China.

On Thursday, the deputy head of China’s Taiwan affairs office, Pan Xianzhang, said repeated stopovers by Taiwanese officials in the US were hurting the interests of the people on the island.

Pan said the “collusion with external forces” by leaders of Taiwan’s ruling party “will only push Taiwan into the abyss of disaster.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson described Lai as “a troublemaker through and through.”

The ministry urged the US to end official contact with Taiwan and stop supporting Taiwanese independence.

Taipei downplayed Lai’s stopover, asking Beijing not to “overreact.”

China held military war drills around Taiwan in April when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California after returning from a trip to Guatemala and Belize.

Military tensions over Taiwan Strait have been high since August 2022, when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island, sparking angered Chinese fury.

In response to Pelosi’s trip, China conducted military drills, encircling the self-ruled island, and sent warplanes across the median live that divides the strait.

Taiwan 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.

China considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.

Beijing says it reserves the right to use force to reunify Taiwan, even as a peaceful merger would be its first choice.

The island was the refuge of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) forces after losing the civil war with the Communists, who, since then, have claimed sovereignty over the territory.

In 1979, Washington broke diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing. However, the American Institute in Taiwan operates as a de facto embassy in Taipei. EFE

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