Tsai’s U.S. stopovers just for ‘comfort:’ U.S. state department

Allowing Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (???) to make stopovers in the United States is part of a "longstanding practice" to provide comfort to the traveler, and there is nothing unusual about her upcoming transits in the U.S. during her visit to Central America, a U.S. Department of State spokesman said Friday.

In response to questions on Tsai's stopovers in Houston and San Francisco in the coming week, State Department Spokesman John Kirby said at a daily press briefing that it is a longstanding practice for the U.S. to "provide a transit opportunity for the comfort of the traveler."

There is nothing unusual and it is "really for comfort," he said of Tsai's upcoming transits in the U.S.

Asked whether any current U.S. official will make contact with Tsai during her stopovers, Kirby said he was not able to speak about the details of discussions that might occur.

Whatever discussions "that leader intends to have is really for them and their staff to speak to, not me," he said.

In response to questions on whether Tsai will receive a different treatment this time compared to her previous travels, he declined to speak about the customs and border service, but added that it is a longstanding practice that the U.S. have provided in the past for her travels.

On Saturday, Tsai embarked on a visit to Central America, during which she will transit in Houston before arriving in Honduras, the first leg of the nine-day trip, and will make a stopover in San Francisco on Jan. 13, after leaving El Salvador on her way back to Taiwan.

This visit comes after Tsai spoke with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in early December on a congratulatory phone call. The call, which was described as the first interaction of its kind since the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in January 1979, has angered Beijing.

At Friday's press briefing, Kirby declined to talk about the U.S. State Department's communications with Trump's transition team, when asked if the State Department has proactively given any advice or caution to Trump's staff on Taiwan issues.

Tsai's office also refused to divulge who she will meet during the stopovers in the U.S., saying only she will meet with Taiwanese expatriates there as well as visit the technology industry in Houston and the innovation industry in San Francisco.

Besides Honduras and El Salvador, Tsai will also visit Nicaragua and Guatemala on her second overseas trip since taking office in May 2016.

They are four of Taiwan's 21 diplomatic allies.

In June 2016, Tsai made stopovers in Miami and Los Angeles during a visit to Central and South America, her first overseas trip as president.

At the time, she met with several U.S. congressmen during the stopovers and spoke with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the phone while in Miami.

Similar arrangements will also be made for Tsai this time, a source said.

Tsai is set to return to Taiwan on Jan. 15.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel