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Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen to transit through US during Pacific trip – sources

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will make a stopover in the United States on her way back from visiting three Pacific nations this month in a move sure to irk Beijing, sources said Wednesday.

Tsai will leave for Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands on Thursday in a trip to shore up ties amid growing concerns about China’s increasing clout in the region.

She is scheduled to transit through Hawaii on March 27 on her way back to Taipei, the sources said without elaborating.

Taiwan is typically low-key in announcing its leader’s specific itineraries, fearing China will use its power to disrupt.

Tsai’s last state visit was to Paraguay and Belize in August with US transits that prompted an official protest from Beijing after she gave a speech in Los Angeles — the first time in 15 years that a Taiwanese leader spoke publicly on American soil.

Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai Ing-wen. File photo: Taiwan Gov’t.

Beijing also protested when Tsai transitted through Hawaii and the US territory of Guam during her first official visit to the Pacific in 2017.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but has remained Taiwan’s most powerful unofficial ally and biggest arms supplier.

China, which sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, bristles at any moves by countries that might lend Taiwan diplomatic support or legitimacy.

Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its “one China” policy.

Five countries have switched official recognition to Beijing since Tsai became president, leaving Taipei with only 17 diplomatic allies including six in the Pacific.

Beijing has also made progress with the Vatican, Taiwan’s most powerful official ally and its only one in Europe, by signing a landmark agreement with the Holy See on the appointment of bishops last year.

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen to transit through US during Pacific trip - sources