Note: this is a guest op-ed contributed by Eliot Wang, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta. The most recent transit of Taiwan’s President Tsai took place on March 30, 2023. United States Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy visited Taiwan on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.
President Tsai has every right to transit in the US to visit Central America. This is not the first time for President Tsai has had layovers in the US. In fact, this is her seventh time. As John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications in the National Security Council, stated, this is not an uncommon practice. “Every single Taiwan president in recent memory has done this.”
Transit in the US is also needed because there are no direct flights to Central America from Taiwan. In the words of State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel, transits are taken out of “safety and comfort and convenience and dignity”. He also pointed out that high-level officials have typically met with members of Congress during transits.
China has been attempting to whittle away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to isolate Taiwan. Countries like Honduras switching their recognitions to China just days ago has led a greater Chinese impact in the U.S. backyard. This shows why President Tsai’s trip to Guatemala and Belize is even more consequential. Her trip not only assures continued relations between our countries. It also holds the intention of strengthening democracy and fostering mutual prosperity and development.
China, on the other hand, has been growing tie with the country that started the invasion of Ukraine, and it has never renounced the right to use force over Taiwan and has repeatedly asserted unlawful Maritimes claims in most of the South China Sea.
Regardless of Beijing’s rhetoric, the US, Taiwan and all the like-minded countries should never bow down to groundless threats. We must stand together for democracy and freedom.