Lai Ching-te makes a stopover in New York City
Taiwan’s vice president Lai Ching-te, also known as William Lai, made a transit stop in New York City on Saturday, August 12, 2023, en route to a state visit to Paraguay. Lai, the leading presidential candidate in Taiwan’s upcoming election, used the Big Apple layover to meet with members of the Taiwanese American community and express his gratitude for their support.
Lai announced his arrival in New York on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. “Happy to arrive at the #BigApple, icon of liberty, democracy & opportunities,” he wrote, attaching a photo alongside Bi-Khim Hsiao, who leads Taiwan’s unofficial embassy in the U.S., and Ingrid Larson, a managing director at America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan. “Looking forward to seeing friends & attending transit programs in #NewYork.”
Lai’s visit to the U.S. helps burnish his credentials in the lead-up to Taiwan’s January presidential election. He is the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate and is expected to succeed outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, who has been a vocal advocate for Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
China condemns Lai’s stopover and conducts military drills
Lai’s stopover in New York City drew strong criticism from China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary. China has opposed any top-level exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S., which does not officially recognize Taiwan diplomatically as part of its relationship with China.
“The Taiwan question is the core of the core interests of China, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations,” a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. “China deplores and strongly condemns the U.S. decision to arrange the so-called ‘stopover’ for Lai Ching-te.”
China also began conducting a three-day military exercise in the East China Sea on Saturday, a few hundred miles from Taiwan. The drill was seen as a typical show of force from Beijing to express its displeasure with the island’s foreign political activities. China has frequently sent warplanes and ships near Taiwan’s airspace and waters, prompting Taiwan to scramble its own forces to intercept them.
Lai attends Paraguay’s presidential inauguration
Lai left New York City on Sunday, August 13, 2023, to attend the inauguration of Paraguay’s new president, Santiago Peña Palacios. Lai is attending the event as a special envoy of President Tsai Ing-wen and will convey her congratulations and goodwill to Peña and his government.
Paraguay is one of Taiwan’s 13 remaining diplomatic allies, which have resisted China’s pressure to switch recognition to Beijing. Paraguay and Taiwan established diplomatic ties in 1957 and have maintained close cooperation in various fields, such as agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure.
Lai is scheduled to arrive in Paraguay on August 14, the day before Peña’s inauguration. He will also meet with other dignitaries and officials from Paraguay and other countries during his visit. He will depart from Paraguay on August 16 and make another stopover in San Francisco before returning to Taiwan.