© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai makes a speech at the ruling Democratic Progressive Party annual congress in Taipei, Taiwan July 16, 2023. REUTERS/Ann Wang//File Photo
By Sarah Wu and Yimou Lee
TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan Vice President William Lai will stop in New York and San Francisco in the United States on his way to and from Paraguay for the inauguration of its new president, Taiwan’s presidential office said on Wednesday.
Taiwan’s government last month announced Lai’s transits without specifying details, drawing ire from Beijing, which slammed Lai as a separatist. The top U.S. diplomat in Taipei urged China not to take “provocative” action in response to the brief visits, describing the transits as routine.
Lai, the front-runner for the island’s presidential vote in January, will stop in New York on Aug. 12 on his way to Paraguay and in San Francisco on Aug. 16 on his way back to Taiwan, the office said.
“This should not create discomfort for other parties or become an excuse to deepen conflict,” Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yui told the news conference at the Presidential Office.
Yui said the arrangement for the U.S. transit was based on the principles of comfort, safety, convenience and dignity.
China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military and political pressure over the past three years to push the island to accept Beijing’s sovereignty claims, which the government in Taipei strongly rejects.
China staged large-scale war games around Taiwan last August, angered by a visit to Taiwan by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and in April, responding to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen meeting current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles, while transition back from a visit to Central America.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal relations with Taiwan, but is the island’s most important international backer and supplier of arms.