Taiwan Candidate Says Its Presidents Should Visit White House

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(Bloomberg) -- A top presidential candidate in Taiwan said the leader of the democratically ruled island should someday be able to walk into the White House, signaling he’d press ahead with efforts to engage the US that have upset China.

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Vice President Lai Ching-te told a group of supporters on Monday that such a visit to Washington was a long-term goal of Taiwan’s, according to a statement released by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Lai pointed to trips that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol have made to Washington, saying Taiwan shouldn’t lag so far behind in terms of recognition. Yoon was given a warm reception by US lawmakers during an address to Congress in April.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made raising the island’s profile on the world stage a focus of her diplomatic strategy, including by building a closer relationship with Washington. Last month, Taiwan sent a vice premier to Japan for the first time in 29 years.

Tsai’s approach has angered Beijing, which has held major military exercises around Taiwan twice since August last year because she met with US House speakers. China has vowed to bring the island under its control eventually, by force if necessary.

Lai, one of the top three candidates in the 2024 election along with the Kuomintang’s Hou Yu-ih and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party, has said before he would expand on Tsai’s policy to raise Taipei’s profile abroad, if elected.

Hou has pledged to “ensure stability and peace” across the Taiwan Strait. Earlier this month, he criticized the ruling DPP, saying it was forced to extend mandatory military service to one-year because it’s made cross-strait relations very tense and dangerous.

Tsai has said that the change was necessary to ensure international support, and that China’s expansionism threatened regional stability.

Ko has said on the campaign trail that he supports communication between Taipei and Beijing, but that Taiwan should be ready to deter any aggression.

“Taiwan still has to be prepared and let China know they will suffer if they attack,” he said in an interview with local media earlier this month.

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