More details have emerged about Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent high-profile layovers in New York City and Denver, after she concluded a 12-day trip via the US to shore up ties with diplomatic allies in the Caribbean.
Among the US lawmakers and senior officials that Tsai either met or talked with over the phone while on US soil were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, American Institute in Taiwan chairman James Moriarty, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, US Senators Cory Gardner and Bob Menendez, US Representatives Doug Lamborn, Ted Yoho and Eliot Engel, etc.
Some of them told Taiwanese reporters that they would look forward to the next round of military supplies for Taiwan, which they would play a role in approving, as well as advocating for a free-trade agreement between the US and the self-ruled island.
Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who welcomed Tsai in New York, said support for the island nation of 23 million cut across party lines.
Gardner said that the House would make weapons sales more routine and they would encourage the Senate to do more. He only had to look at Hong Kong to see the threats that Taiwan has been facing and realized that the US must stand with Taiwan. Gardner chairs the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy.
Tsai’s four nights in two US cities defied Beijing’s strenuous objections and proved how strong relations have grown between the US and Taiwan, despite China continuing to poach its dwindling number of diplomatic allies (now about 17 officially).
A flurry of new acts and shows of support paved the way for Tsai’s transit stops, as well as the hospitality she received.
The US Congress last year passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows senior US officials to travel to Taiwan and vice-versa. Indeed, President Donald Trump, who made headlines after accepting a congratulatory call from Tsai in 2016 after he was elected, signed the legislation into law last year.
In May, the US House of Representatives also passed the Taiwan Assurance Act to deepen and expand ties by eliminating excessive diplomatic restrictions at the State Department.
And this month, the Pentagon approved a US$2.2-billion possible arms sale to Taiwan. It has also been reported that a deal to sell 66 F-16V fighter jets will be announced this month.
Tsai told Taiwanese expats in the US that next year’s presidential election would be critical in protecting the island’s democracy. She urged them to return home to vote and vowed that her administration would never succumb to pressure and Beijing’s threats as long as she was in power.
She accused China of resorting to a carrot-and-stick approach to foist its “one country, two systems” model on the island, when such an arrangement has strangled the liberty and freedoms in Hong Kong.
Chinese protesters demonstrated outside the hotels in the two cities where Tsai stayed, waving the Chinese flag and clashed with her supporters. The New York Police had to corral pro-reunification activists behind metal barricades.
Meanwhile, with roughly half a year to go before the presidential election in January, things may be looking up for Tsai. Her stopovers suggest that Washington has given Tsai trust and support.
Public opinion polls also suggest that Tsai may prevail in a three-way match against Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and Kaohsiung Mayor and Kuomintang party nominee Han Kuo-yu.