TAIPEI, Taiwan – Met with a delegation of former US officials Taiwan the president Tsai Ing-wen and his newly elected successor in Taipei on Monday, two days after the self-governing democracy voted to keep his party in power Reprimanding Beijing.
The visit of the unofficial delegation took place on an island 100 miles off the coast of Taiwan. Demon Beijing has lost one of its few diplomatic ties to what it claims is its territory, and the Pacific island nation of Nauru has announced it will switch ties with China.
A Taiwanese official described the move as a “blatant challenge” to democracy by Beijing, which says Taiwan should not have its own president, and criticized dozens of countries that congratulated the island on its successful election.
In Saturday’s presidential election, Taiwanese voters chose Tsai’s vice president, Lai Ching-ten, whom China described as separatist and a “troublemaker” and warned voters not to support.
The 64-year-old Lai won with 40% of the vote in a three-way race dominated by economic issues but with rivals arguing for closer ties with Beijing. His liberal Democratic Progressive Party won an unprecedented third consecutive term in power but lost control of the legislature, which experts say could limit Lai’s policy options after he takes office on May 20.
Lai’s victory and China’s response could test Beijing and Washington’s last-ditch efforts to mend relations that have sunk to their lowest point in decades in recent years. Taiwan’s status is one of the most sensitive issues between China, which has not ruled out the use of force to achieve reunification, and the US, the island’s most important international supporter.
The bilateral US delegation to Taipei on Sunday includes Stephen J. Hadley, who served as national security adviser under President George W. Bush, and James B. Steinberg, who served as deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. It is headed by Laura Rosenberger, president of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s unofficial embassy on the island of 23 million people.
Hadley, who met with Tsai at the presidential office, congratulated her on the success of Taiwan’s election and said the US commitment to Taiwan was “strong”.
“Taiwan’s democracy is a shining example for the world,” he said.
Tsai said the visit demonstrated US support for Taiwan’s democracy and hoped US-Taiwan relations would “continue to move forward and become an important driving force for regional and global prosperity and development.”
Later, in a meeting at the party headquarters, Lai told the delegation that the organization he led would continue to defend peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in accordance with Tsai’s policy, and hoped that the United States would continue to support Taiwan.
U.S. and Taiwanese officials said the delegation was consistent with past experience and that China did not view previous such delegations as “escalators.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that Taiwan’s election is China’s “internal affair” and that regardless of the outcome, it “will not change the fundamental fact that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China.”
Asked about the US delegation, spokesman Mao Ning said China “continually opposes any form of official exchanges between the US and Taiwan and firmly opposes any US interference in Taiwan affairs”.
The State Secretary of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday Anthony Blinken By congratulating Lai, it sent a “serious wrong signal” to Taiwan’s pro-independence forces and “seriously violated” the US commitment to “maintain only cultural, trade and other informal relations with the Taiwanese people”.
On Monday, Mao said China “welcomes and appreciates” Nauru’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead recognize Beijing, “once again showing that global opinion trends are here.”
Nauru said on Monday it would restore full diplomatic relations with Beijing in the “best interests” of the country and its 12,500 people. Nauru recognized Beijing from 2002 to 2005 before returning to Taipei, which competed with Beijing for support through development aid and other incentives.
Although China’s talks with Nauru have been ongoing for some time, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the timing of the announcement was designed to insult Taiwan and felt “like an ambush”.
“My government hereby strongly condemns centralized China’s hegemony over democratic Taiwan and its arrogance in crushing freedom and democracy,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang told reporters.
“This is an open call to protect democratic values and international order,” he added.
China’s foreign ministry said it was an “independent choice made by Nauru as a sovereign nation”.
China has poached Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in recent years as it seeks to isolate the island internationally. Nauru’s recognition of Beijing leaves Taipei with just 12 Latin America and the Caribbean.
Janis Mackey Fryer reported from Taipei, and Jennifer Jett and Larissa Gao reported from Hong Kong.