Taiwan Vice President Leaves on Sensitive Trip to United States

Taiwan Vice President Leaves on Sensitive Trip to United States - TAOYUAN, Taiwan—Taiwan Vice President William Lai left on Saturday for a sensitive trip to the United States, which China has condemned and Taiwanese officials fear could prompt more Chinese military activity around the democratically governed island.

Taiwan Vice President Leaves on Sensitive Trip to United States

Taiwan Vice President Leaves on Sensitive Trip to United States

TAOYUAN, Taiwan—Taiwan Vice President William Lai left on Saturday for a sensitive trip to the United States, which China has condemned and Taiwanese officials fear could prompt more Chinese military activity around the democratically governed island.

Mr. Lai, the front-runner to become Taiwan's president in elections in January, is officially making only transit stops in the United States on his way to and from Paraguay for the swearing in of its president.

Taipei and Washington say such stopovers are routine and no cause for China to take "provocative" actions, but Beijing has reacted with anger at what it sees as a further sign of U.S. support for Taiwan, which it claims as sovereign Chinese territory.

Mr. Lai, speaking to reporters at Taiwan's main international airport at Taoyuan, made only fleeting mention of the U.S. part of his trip, simply noting he was going to New York first.

He said he would use the Paraguay visit not only to deepen ties with that country but also to have "self-confident" exchanges with other countries and meet with delegations from like-minded partners. He did not say who.

This will "let the international community understand that Taiwan is a country that adheres to democracy, freedom and human rights, and actively participates in international affairs," Mr. Lai added.

It will also let the world know about "our various efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific," he said.

Mr. Lai went to Honduras last year for the inauguration of its president and had a brief though symbolic chat while there with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. The United States has not announced who may be going to Paraguay next week.

Beijing particularly dislikes Mr. Lai, who has in the past described himself as a "practical worker for Taiwan independence." Mr. Lai has, however, repeatedly said during the election campaign he does not seek to change the status quo.

Before leaving, Mr. Lai wrote in English on social media platform X, formerly called Twitter, he was "excited to meet with US friends in transit" and to be going to Paraguay, one of just 13 countries to maintain formal ties with Taipei.

Laura Rosenberger, chair of the Virginia-based American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a U.S. government-run non-profit that carries out unofficial relations with Taiwan, responded on X that AIT was looking forward to welcoming him "during his transit en route to Paraguay."

Mr. Lai is to return from Paraguay via San Francisco and is due back in Taiwan on Friday, according to the official schedule for the trip published on Saturday, which does not mention the U.S. legs.

The Paraguay part of the trip is also important given China's increasing efforts to take Taiwan's remaining allies.

Honduras, once a stalwart Taiwanese partner, switched relations to China in March.