China wants the U.S. government to block Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from traveling through American territory, specifically Hawaii and Guam, during her upcoming trip to visit allies in the Pacific.
Reuters reports that China has made “stern representations” to the U.S. government that permitting President Tsai to pass through American airports on her trip would violate the “one China” policy, which holds that Taiwan is firmly part of China.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was important for the United States to “not send any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces and take real actions to protect the overall picture of China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Tsai’s trip, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday, will take her to Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, and the Marshall Islands. China has been working diligently since Tsai’s election to drive Taiwan’s few formal diplomatic allies away.
Speaking at a symposium on cross-strait exchanges on Thursday, Tsai said she hoped for better relations between Taiwan and mainland China now that China’s Communist Party Congress has concluded and President Xi Jinping has been confirmed to another five-year term.
“I’ve always thought that a national leader must act in the best interests of the people as a whole. To have stable cross-strait relations, the ruling parties on both sides need to interact, increase mutual understanding, and gradually build trust so they can deal with issues surrounding cross-strait relations together,” she said.
“Our goodwill will not change, our commitments will not change, we will not revert to the old path of confrontation, and we will not bow to pressure,” she declared.
Tsai hinted that she wanted “further improvement” in the relationship between Taipei and Beijing, including more liberalized trade and relaxed restrictions on travel – a hope ironically expressed at the moment Beijing is attempting to limit her personal ability to travel internationally.
The U.S. State Department does not seem inclined to honor China’s “stern” request. State Department spokeswoman Grace Choi said Tsai’s passage through U.S. territory would be “private and unofficial,” in keeping with “our unofficial relations with Taiwan,” and would not indicate any “change to the U.S. one-China policy.”
The Taiwanese government made a statement on Friday thanking the United States for arranging Tsai’s stopovers in Hawaii and Guam “in accordance with comfort, safety, convenience, and dignity principles.”