TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan Vice President William Lai has promised during a visit to San Francisco to take peace as his “lighthouse” and democracy as his guide, on the final leg of a trip that China has condemned.
Lai is stopping briefly in the U.S. city on his way back to Taipei after visiting Paraguay, having stopped in New York on his way there.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, has denounced the transit stops in the United States and called Lai a “troublemaker”.
In a speech to supporters entitled “Building an innovative and prosperous country”, Lai touted chip-maker Taiwan’s key role in the global technology supply chain and said he would turn Taiwan into Asia’s Silicon Valley.
“Here I make my promise to everyone: going forward, I will do all I can to lead Taiwan continuously forward with peace as the lighthouse and democracy as the compass,” Lai said in comments carried live on Taiwanese television on Thursday.
“We have one shared goal, which is to make Taiwan the MVP of the democratic world,” he said, referring to the U.S. sporting term “most valuable player”.
“During good times and bad times, Taiwan has been closely standing together with democratic societies in the past decades. Taiwan has never been alone,” Lai said, adding that Taiwan-U.S. ties are “unprecedentedly good”.
The speech ended with the crowd chanting “go Taiwan” and “get elected”, a reference to Taiwan’s January’s election in which Lai is the front-runner.
The banquet with supporters was attended by Laura Rosenberger, chair of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a U.S. government-run non-profit that handles unofficial relations.
Speaking before him, Rosenberger said the Biden administration was committed to expanding Taiwan’s engagement with likeminded allies and partners.
“Taiwan is a crucial partner in U.S. efforts to maintain global peace and stability, including in the Taiwan Strait,” Rosenberger said.
“Preserving this peace and stability is a core tenant of the United States’ longstanding cross-strait policy and our commitment to help Taiwan’s self-defence capacity is rock solid.”
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; editing by Robert Birsel)