Taiwan Vice President Lai arrives in New York en route to Paraguay

Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te arrived in New York on Saturday for a two-day stay before traveling to Paraguay to attend a presidential inauguration ceremony.

The transit by Lai, a leading candidate ahead of next year’s presidential election, has angered China, which considers Taiwan as its own and opposes any official contact between other countries and the self-ruled democratic island.

China “deplores and strongly condemns” the decision of the United States to arrange his transit, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

Beijing regards Lai, a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party under President Tsai Ing-wen, as a pro-independence figure.

On his way home from Paraguay, Lai will transit in San Francisco on Aug. 16 and 17, according to Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Tah-ray Yui.

The Liberty Times of Taiwan reported Lai is expected to attend a meeting with Taiwanese residents of the United States and meet with U.S. congressional officials during his stay.

Lai will visit Paraguay, the only South American country to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, for the Aug. 15 inauguration ceremony of President-elect Santiago Pena.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said in July that China will closely follow the situation regarding Lai’s trip and “take resolute and strong measures to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Tsai made stopovers in the United States in April as part of a trip to South America and met with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California, which prompted China to launch military drills near Taiwan.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 due to a civil war. Beijing regards the territory as a renegade province and intends to unify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga