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Taiwan President Risks Infuriating China With U.S. Visit

The leader of Taiwan, the self-governing island of 24 million that China claims as its territory, visited the United States on Thursday, risking a Chinese backlash that could further aggravate relations between Beijing and the Trump administration.

The visit by President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which includes stopovers in New York and Denver, is happening over the objections of China, which urged the United States government not to permit it.

Ms. Tsai made the trip in the midst of a protracted trade dispute between China and the United States, and just a few days after the Defense Department approved a $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, a deal that China regards as especially provocative.

While Ms. Tsai has visited the United States before, this was her first trip as president New York, where Taiwan maintains a large unofficial consular and trade office just a few blocks from the United Nations. Taiwan is not a United Nations member and has no representatives.

The United States broke formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s government in 1979, ending what was known as the two-China policy, in order to establish relations with China’s Communist government in Beijing. But the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan and has provided it with defensive weapons meant to deter a Chinese attack.

Despite expansive commercial ties between China’s mainland and Taiwan over the years, the Chinese Communist authorities in Beijing have long claimed Taiwan as China’s territory and have threatened to unify it with the mainland by force.

Ms. Tsai’s visit, which has been planned for months, was partly aimed at reinforcing her government’s ties with the Caribbean nations that are among the few remaining in the world to retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Her 12-day itinerary includes stopovers at four of those nations, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Haiti.

“Freedom, democracy and sustainability are the Taiwanese values we want to share with all our good friends in the world,” Ms. Tsai said in a speech before her departure from Taiwan, according to its official Central News Agency.

Taiwan’s tensions with China have grown under Ms. Tsai, who has been president since 2016. A member of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, she has stressed what she has called the need to strengthen the country’s military defenses. She faces an election in January.

Ms. Tsai toughened her rhetoric on China in April after Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and Taiwan, for the first time since 1999. Taiwan jets scrambled and repelled their Chinese counterparts, which came within 115 miles of the island’s coast.

“These actions by China are not only unilateral changes to the cross-strait status quo, even more, they are a brazen provocation to regional security and stability,” Ms. Tsai said afterward.

Ms. Tsai’s pro-independence politics, and Taiwan’s ties with the United States, have led to criticism from China.

In denouncing the Pentagon’s decision to allow the arms sale to Taiwan, a spokesman for China’s State Council, Ma Xiaoguang, said Tuesday that Ms. Tsai’s party should not rely on foreign strength, which would “draw fire against yourself” and require her to “pay a price.”


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