Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen landed in Honolulu on Saturday en route to the island’s diplomatic allies among Pacific nations and is expected to visit a Pearl Harbor memorial, despite strong objections to the visit from China. China regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue between it and the United States, and Beijing complains to Washington about transit stops by Taiwanese presidents. China considers Taiwan to be a wayward province.
Tsai left on Saturday on a week-long trip to three Pacific island allies – Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands – via Honolulu and the US territory of Guam.
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department said Tsai’s transits through U.S. soil would be “private and unofficial” and were based on long-standing US practise consistent with “our unofficial relations with Taiwan.”
It noted there was “no change to the US one-China policy.”
While in Hawaii, Tsai is expected to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the battleship sunk in Pearl Harbor in the Second World War.
The memorial now forms a centerpiece of the World War Two Valor in the Pacific National Monument, a historic site administered by the National Park Service.
China suspects Tsai wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend Taiwan’s democracy and security.
US President Donald Trump is due to visit China in less than two weeks. He angered Beijing last December by taking a telephone call from Tsai shortly after he won the presidential election.
The trip to the United States is Tsai’s second this year. In January she stopped over in Houston and San Francisco on her way to and from Latin America, visiting the headquarters of Twitter , which is blocked in China.