Guatemala says Taiwan's Tsai to visit, no word on any U.S. stop

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2016 6:00 PM

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen will visit diplomatic ally Guatemala next month, the foreign minister said on Monday, but it was unclear if she would also go to the United States after a phone call with President-elect Donald Trump raised sensitivities in Sino-U.S. relations.

Tsai is due to visit Guatemala on Jan. 11-12, Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales told Reuters. He gave no details on what President Jimmy Morales and Tsai would discuss.

Taiwan's Liberty Times, considered close to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, reported on Monday that Tsai was planning to transit in New York early next month on her way to visit three diplomatic allies in Central America - Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

El Salvador's government said it was working with Taiwan on plans for a visit by Tsai in the second week of January, but gave no specific dates.

The government of Nicaragua had no immediate comment. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is set to be sworn in for a third consecutive term on Jan. 10, however, so Tsai's trip to Guatemala would dovetail with that ceremony.

The trip would take place before Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 and Tsai's delegation would seek to meet Trump's team, including his White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Liberty Times said.

Taiwan's Presidential Office said media reports about a January trip were "excessive speculation". It said it would announce any presidential trips at the appropriate time.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he had no information to announce about whether Tsai would meet U.S. officials if she stopped in transit.

"What I can say about that is that that kind of transit is based on long-standing U.S. practice and it's consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan," Toner told a regular media briefing.

An adviser to Trump's transition team said he considered it "very unlikely" that there would be a meeting between Tsai and Trump if she were to transit in New York.

The White House said on Monday it had sought to reassure China after Trump's phone call with Tsai last week, which the Obama administration warned could undermine progress in relations with Beijing.

The call with Taipei was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of "one China". China regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Trump stoked controversy further on Sunday when he used Twitter to complain about Chinese economic and military policy.

(Reporting by Bill Barreto in Guatemala City; Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Enrique Andres Pretel in Mexico City; David Brunnstrom in Washington; and Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Grant McCool and Paul Tait)