‘No one can ‘oblit­er­ate’ Tai­wan’s ex­is­tence’


Vow­ing that “no one can oblit­er­ate Tai­wan’s ex­is­tence”, Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen left yes­ter­day for the United States and two of its re­main­ing diplo­matic al­lies, amid pres­sure from China to try to stamp out ref­er­ences to the is­land in­ter­na­tion­ally.

China, which claims self-ruled and demo­cratic Tai­wan as its own, has stepped up a cam­paign against the is­land as it tries to as­sert Chi­nese sovereignty. Bei­jing has or­dered for­eign com­pa­nies to la­bel Tai­wan as part of China on their web­sites and is ex­clud­ing Tai­wan from as many in­ter­na­tional fo­rums as it can. Also, China has also been whit­tling down the num­ber of coun­tries that recog­nise Tai­wan — now just 18 — with Burk­ina Faso and the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic switch­ing relations to Bei­jing this year.

Speak­ing be­fore her flight to Los An­ge­les, where she will spend one night prior to vis­it­ing Belize and Paraguay, Tsai struck a de­fi­ant tone.

“In go­ing abroad, the whole world can see Tai­wan; they can see our coun­try as well as our sup­port for democ­racy and free­dom,” Tsai said. “We only need to be firm so that no one can oblit­er­ate Tai­wan’s ex­is­tence.”

China, which be­lieves Tsai wants to push for Tai­wan’s for­mal in­de­pen­dence, has al­ready com­plained to Wash­ing­ton about her US stopovers, which in­clude Hous­ton on her way back. The trip starts one day af­ter Tai­wan’s state-run re­finer CPC Corp an­nounced a deal val­ued at $25bn to pur­chase liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas from the United States over the next 25 years.

The deal was aimed at boost­ing trade relations with the United States by re­duc­ing its trade sur­plus and was also a sign of good­will ahead of Tsai’s visit, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the gov­ern­ment’s think­ing told Reuters. Tsai, who says she wants to main­tain the sta­tus quo with China, will also be look­ing to reaf­firm Wash­ing­ton-Taipei ties and to shore up sup­port ahead of lo­cal elec­tions in Tai­wan in Novem­ber amid the es­ca­lat­ing pres­sure from China.

Dur­ing her US stops, Tsai in­tends to meet Ed Royce, chair­man of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the plans. She will also meet with busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives to dis­cuss how Tai­wan could drum up in­vest­ment and pro­cure­ment with the US, they said. Wash­ing­ton has no for­mal ties with Tai­wan but is the is­land’s strong­est ally and sole for­eign arms sup­plier.

Tsai’s US stopovers come as China and the United States are en­gaged in a trade war, adding to Bei­jing’s ir­ri­ta­tion with Wash­ing­ton.

Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen

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