Taiwan leader plans US stopover on diplomatic tour

Taipei (AFP) –


Taiwan's leader will stop over in the United States during a visit to four Caribbean diplomatic allies in a move that could anger Beijing.

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

Although Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it has remained Taiwan's most powerful unofficial ally and biggest arms supplier.

President Tsai Ing-wen's office announced Monday there would be two US stopovers -- although the exact locations have not been confirmed -- during her July 11-22 trip to four Caribbean allies.

"We received high courtesy from the US side in every (previous) transit and we are sure it'll be the same this time," deputy foreign minister Miguel Tsao told reporters.

Tsai transited through the US during a trip to the Pacific earlier this year, as well as last year's visit to Paraguay and Belize, both prompting official Chinese protests.

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

Tsai will visit Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and St Christopher and Nevis, in an attempt to shore up support for Taiwan.

China has poached five of Taipei's dwindling number of allies since Tsai became president in 2016.

Haiti is among 17 countries that still officially recognise Taiwan, and has vowed to maintain ties with Taipei despite neighbouring Dominican Republic establishing relations with China last year.

Taiwan pledged a $150 million development loan to Haiti, while Beijing reportedly offered the Dominican Republican investments and loans to the tune of $3 billion.