December 29, 2016 / 4:44 AM / in a year

China warns U.S. against allowing stopover for Taiwan's Tsai

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pass through the United States when she visits Latin America next month, the Taiwan Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, angering China which urged the United States to block any such stopover.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the phone with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump at her office in Taipei, Taiwan, in this handout photo made available December 3, 2016. Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS

China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations.

Details of the stopovers will be disclosed before the end of this week, the ministry said.

China said Tsai’s intentions were clear and urged the United States not to let her in.

“We hope the U.S. can abide by the ‘one China’ policy...and not let her pass through their border, not give any false signals to Taiwan independence forces, and through concrete actions safeguard overall U.S. China relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan strait,” Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told a briefing in Beijing.

The transit details are being closely watched as Taiwan media has speculated Tsai will seek to meet President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team ahead of his January 20 inauguration.

Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.

The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it.

China’s sole aircraft carrier, accompanied by several warships, sailed close to Taiwan this week, which followed on from air force exercises also close to Taiwan.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun repeated that the drills were routine, but added that such drills did have Taiwan in mind.

“The military’s holding of exercises is beneficial to raising our ability to oppose Taiwan independence and protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and beneficial to protecting the peaceful development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations and peace and stability there,” he told reporters.

Tsai’s office earlier this month said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order. She will leave Taiwan on Jan. 7 and return on Jan. 15.

Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific and including the Vatican.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy of the United States, had no immediate comment on Tsai’s itinerary.

Additional reporting by Jake Spring and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie

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