President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in Houston Saturday for a brief transit stop on her way to Central America, a routine stopover that has been closely watched by Beijing after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke with her by phone recently.
Tsai touched down in Houston after setting out from Taiwan earlier Saturday on her way to Honduras, the first leg of the nine-day trip, which will also bring her to Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order.
Tsai received high-level treatment after her arrival in Houston, with Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty and Taiwan's Representative to the United States Stanley Kao (???) greeting her at the airport.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security has also adopted high-level security measures as Tsai landed in the United States.
For instance, when Tsai visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston later that day, traffic control was imposed, police officers were deployed to escort her, while the museum was cleared for three hours.
Tsai also visited Taiwanese-invested Formosa Plastics Corp. at Point Comfort Nan Ya Plastics Corp. at Wharton. She was accompanied by Farenthold.
Tsai is scheduled to stay in Houston for a night after attending a dinner in her honor which was also attended by several U.S. officials, including Farenthold, Rep. Al Green and Moriarty and about 600 overseas Taiwanese.
Moriarty was quoted by DPP legislator as saying that he will continue to promote good relations between Taiwan and the U. S. as the two countries share common values.
The stop in Houston has taken on new significance since her December phone call with Trump set a precedent in decades of U.S. policy toward China. It was the first ever reported phone call between a Taiwanese president and a U.S. president or president-elect.
However, Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Trump's transition team said in an email Saturday that neither Trump nor members of his transition team would be meeting with Tsai when she makes transit stops in the U.S. during her trip to the Americas.
Tsai will make a stopover in San Francisco on Jan. 13, after leaving El Salvador on her way back to Taiwan.
It is Tsai's second overseas trip since taking office on May 20, 2016. Tsai visited Panama in June last year.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel