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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Rumored to Be Planning US Visit this Summer

Beijing continues to adamantly claim that "Taiwan is part of China." Thus, China's response to a US visit is expected to be virulent.

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Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and Taiwanese officials pose for photos with a US delegation led by California Representative Ro Khanna at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan on February 21, 2023. (© Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

On February 24, it was learned that Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen has decided to visit the United States some time before August. Taiwan has already begun coordinating the trip with the US side, it was revealed. The reports are attributed to multiple sources with ties to the government or ruling party.  

For Tsai, who will leave office in May 2024, such a visit to the United States would represent the culmination of her administration's diplomatic efforts. Moreover, she would have the opportunity to highlight the close relations between Taiwan and the United States. 

Washington and Taipei are reportedly discussing the timing, form and other details of a visit by Tsai.

If such a trip were to occur, it would be sure to draw a vehement response from China, which is bent on short-circuiting closer Taiwan-US ties.

At the same time, if the trip materializes, it would be Tsai's first US visit since July 2019.

Taiwan
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Taiwanese President President Tsai Ing-wen arrive for a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 3, 2022. (© Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Options Being Considered

According to the anonymous sources for the report, three possibilities are being considered. In the first option, Tsai's alma mater, Cornell University, could invite her to speak at an event. There is a precedent for this since former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, who received his PhD from Cornell, delivered a speech at the university in 1995.

The second would be to participate in an event sponsored by a US think tank. Tsai has spoken in online symposiums and other events organized by leading US think tanks, including the Hudson Institute and the Center for American Progress (CAP), over the past few years.

The third option calls for Tsai to stop in the United States on her way to or from the inauguration of the president of Paraguay in August. Paraguay is one of the 14 nations which maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Tsai also attended the last presidential inauguration there in August 2018.

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No matter what form a Tsai visit to the US takes, she would be sure to meet informally with prominent Americans, including politicians. 

Taiwan
A man in Beijing uses a magnifying glass to read a newspaper headline reporting on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Asia visit on July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Expected Response from Beijing

Beijing continues to adamantly claim that "Taiwan is part of China." Thus, amid deteriorating relations, not only between China and the United States but also China and Taiwan, China's response is expected to be virulent. 

Such was indeed the case when then US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August 2022. Beijing responded with large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. Consequently, if Tsai visits the United States, China may well take strong countermeasures. 

Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaushieh Joseph Wu and other officials just completed a visit to the US on February 21. They held multiple informal talks with top US officials during that time. Tsai's plans to visit the US are believed to have been among the topics discussed.

As a matter of fact, a source in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) commented, saying: "With military tensions rising around the Taiwan Strait, many people are concerned about whether the US can be counted on in times of crisis."

The source also added, "If Tsai's US visit comes to fruition, it will confirm that the United States greatly values Taiwan and will prove a great source of reassurance."

Taiwan
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with California Representative Ro Khanna during a meeting in Taipei. February 21, 2023. (© Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Any Plans Will Be Announced

On February 25 The Sankei Shimbun reported that the US and Taiwan are coordinating the schedule, format and other particulars of a visit by President Tsai to the US. However, on the same day, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented that such reports are "nothing more than speculation."

The Ministry added that presidential trips abroad are one of the most important jobs that the Ministry handles. Therefore, if a concrete plan for the Tsai trip is made, "the Presidential Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs will announce it."

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Akio Yaita, Taipei Bureau Chief 

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