Taiwan president leaves for US, warns of threat from ‘overseas forces’

President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly called for international support to defend Taiwan’s democracy in the face of Chinese threats. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

Taiwan president leaves for US, warns of threat from ‘overseas forces’

  • China has called on the United States not to allow Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to transit there on her overseas tour
  • US State Department say there had been no change in its “one-China” policy

TAOYUAN: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen left for the United States on Thursday on a trip that has angered Beijing, warning democracy must be defended and the island faced threats from “overseas forces,” in a veiled reference to China.
China, which claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and views it as a wayward province, has called on the United States not to allow Tsai to transit there on her overseas tour.
She is spending four nights in the United States in total, two on the way there and two on the way back on a visit to four Caribbean allies. Tsai will go to New York on her way there, and then is expected to stop in Denver on the way back.
Tsai’s time in the United States will be unusually long, as normally she spends just a night at a time on transit stops.
The US State Department has said there had been no change in the US “one-China” policy, under which Washington officially recognizes Beijing and not Taipei, while assisting Taiwan.
Speaking at Taipei’s main international airport at Taoyuan, Tsai said she would share the values of freedom and transparency with Taiwan’s allies, and she was looking forward to finding more international space for Taiwan.
“Our democracy has not come easily, and is now facing threats and infiltration from overseas forces,” Tsai said, without naming any such force.
“These challenges are also common challenges faced by democracies all over the world. We will work with countries with similar ideas to ensure the stability of the democratic system.”
Tsai, who faces re-election in January, has repeatedly called for international support to defend Taiwan’s democracy in the face of Chinese threats.
Beijing has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on drills in the past few years.
Tsai last went to the United States in March, stopping over in Hawaii at the end of a Pacific tour.
Seeking to bolster Taiwan’s defenses, the United States this week approved an arms sale worth an estimated $2.2 billion for Taiwan, despite Chinese criticism of the deal.
Taiwan has been trying to shore up its diplomatic alliances amid pressure from China, which has been whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies, especially in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Aside from the United States, Tsai will be visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti.
Taiwan now has formal ties with only 17 countries, almost all small nations in Central America and the Pacific.


Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

Updated 13 October 2019

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

  • EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an amicable divorce deal with the European Union.
Negotiators went behind closed doors for intensive talks in Brussels after Johnson outlined a new set of proposals to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.
They have very little time left to succeed.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away.
The 27 would ideally like to have a full proposal to vote on by then.
But the sides are trying to achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier called the weekend negotiations “constructive” enough to keep going for another day.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Barnier stressed in a statement to EU ambassadors.
“Discussions at technical level will continue (Monday).”
Downing Street said Johnson also told his cabinet to brace for a cliff-hanger finish.
He reiterated “that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on October 31,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Johnson rose to power in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year — even for a few weeks.
Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.
Johnson is under parliamentary orders to seek a extension until January 31 of next year if no deal emerges by Saturday.
He has promised to both follow the law and get Britain out by October 31 — a contradiction that might end up being settled in court.
Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more difficult to decipher than the riddle of an “Egyptian sphinx.”
“If the British ask for more time, which they probably will not, it would in my view be a historical nonsense to refuse them,” Juncker told Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
Ireland’s Varadkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the talks running on up to the October 31 deadline if a deal seemed within reach.
The few details that have leaked out suggest a compromise around the contentious Irish border issue Britain’s Northern Ireland partially aligned with EU customs rules.
Whether such a fudge suits both Brussels and the more ardent Brexit backers in parliament who must still approve a deal should become clearer by the end of the week.
Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the UK parliament — something it has failed to do three times.
Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full backing of not only his own fractured Conservatives but also Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP’s parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds warned Johnson that “Northern Ireland must remain entirely in the customs union of the United Kingdom” and not the EU.
“And Boris Johnson knows it very well,” Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
The comments do not necessarily rule out DUP support.
UK media are presenting Johnson’s mooted compromise as a “double customs” plan that could be interpreted to mean that Northern Ireland is leaving EU rules.
Yet details are still under discussion and the prime minister’s allies are urging lawmakers to give the British leader a chance.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled Sunday that he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to force an early election.
But he added that there was “a strong possibility” that those polls would come before the Christmas break.