China condemns US visit of Taiwanese ‘troublemaker’

Says Beijing would take strong steps to protect its sovereignty, drawing a rebuke from Taipei.

BEIJING/TAIPEI: China on Sunday condemned a brief U.S. visit by Taiwan Vice President William Lai, saying he was a separatist and “troublemaker through and through” and Beijing would take strong steps to protect its sovereignty, drawing a rebuke from Taipei.

Lai, front-runner to be Taiwan’s next president at elections in January, arrived in New York late on Saturday for what is officially a transit on his way to Paraguay for the inauguration of its president.

China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly denounced Lai’s trip, which includes another stopover in San Francisco on Wednesday on his way back to Taipei.

In a statement issued shortly after Lai landed in New York on a scheduled flight from Taipei, China’s foreign ministry said it opposed any form of visit by “Taiwan independence separatists” to the United States.

“Lai stubbornly adheres to the separatist position of Taiwan independence and is a troublemaker through and through,” the ministry said.

Taiwan is the “core of China’s core interests” and facts have shown again and again that the reason for the rise in tensions in the Taiwan Strait is Taiwan trying to “rely on the United States to seek independence”, it said.

“China is closely following developments and will take resolute and vigorous measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Taiwan’s China-policymaking Mainland Affairs Council said China was the real troublemaker, pointing to its standoff this month with the Philippines in the South China Sea and continued military harassment of Taiwan, among other actions.

“Our government firmly defends national sovereignty and security, guards the lines of defence of democracy and freedom, and will never back down, let alone capitulate,” the council said in a statement.

China has an especial dislike of Lai, who has previously described himself as a “practical worker for Taiwan independence”, though he has repeatedly said on the campaign trail he is not seeking to change the status quo, but that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

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