A semi-official visit . . .
This week, Taiwan’s Vice President-elect William Lai is visiting Washington, D.C.. Lai spoke at the new International Religious Freedom Roundtable before attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast, hosted by President Trump and members of Congress. He met with pro-Taiwan Senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and Finance Committees. This is the highest-profile visit to Washington by a Taiwanese government official since 1979, even though Lai reportedly wrote on Facebook that he was visiting “in an individual capacity.”
Making friends, garnering support . . .
U.S.-Taiwan relations have warmed since the phone call between President Trump and President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after the former’s electoral victory in late 2016. In March 2018, the U.S. passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which removed longstanding travel bans for all levels of U.S. and Taiwan officials. Taiwanese sources claim Lai’s visit is a direct result of the Taiwan Travel Act. A further indication of the growing relationship between the two, Taiwan has also purchased new military equipment, including Apache helicopters, from the U.S. despite strong objections from Beijing. Lai’s visit also seems to be aimed at gaining support in Washington for Taiwan to receive official status at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
An important partner . . .
Many U.S. analysts identify Taiwan as a vibrant democracy, and an important security ally and trading partner for America. Canadian analysts also point to Taiwanese democracy and the Canada-Taiwan trade relationship (Taiwan is Canada’s 13th largest trade partner) as reasons for deepening the bilateral relationship. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately re-stated their government’s support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, particularly in the context of the coronavirus epidemic.
- The New York Times: Taiwan Vice-President elect to attend high-profile U.S. prayer breakfast
- Nikkei Asian Review: Taiwan’s next VP visits Washington and attends Trump event
- Taiwan News: Taiwan VP-elect meets pro-Taiwan senators in DC