President of Taiwan makes her first visit to Hawaii
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the USS Arizona Memorial on Saturday, providing a very public record of her first trip to Hawaii, which drew strong objections from China.
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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the USS Arizona Memorial on Saturday, providing a very public
record of her first trip to Hawaii, which drew strong objections from China.
Tsai, who was sworn in as Taiwan’s president in May 2016, arrived in Hawaii on Friday for a transit stop and is expected to leave
today for the Marshall
Islands, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Guam.
Shirley Kan, a retired
specialist in Asian security affairs who worked for
Congress and is on the advisory board of the nonprofit Global Taiwan Institute, said Tsai’s visit to the USS Arizona Memorial harks back to the days when the Republic of China allied with the U.S. during World War II.
“It’s wholly appropriate and it’s completely in line with American values and those of freedom-loving people around the world,” Kan said. “Still, there are always going to be some people, particularly China’s government, that might be upset.”
While at the memorial, the heart of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Tsai scattered two large bunches of plumeria into the viewing well and bowed before a wreath placed there by the Taiwanese delegation. She looked very somber as
she learned of the monument’s history from its chief historian, Daniel Martinez, and Superintendent Jacqueline Ashwell, who accompanied her during the visit.
“She was very interested in history,” Ashwell said. “We spoke about how this place represents peace and reconciliation now, and despite what happened with us and Japan, we are now close allies.”
Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, said Tsai’s visit to the
memorial “suggests a
feeling of solidarity and sympathy with the U.S. and a willingness to share in a national tragedy with the U.S., indicating to me a sense of being a friend and ally, although not officially an ally.”
Roy said Tsai also visited the East-West Center, where she made some remarks Saturday just before her visit to Pearl Harbor.
“She expressed her appreciation at being able to visit Hawaii,” Roy said. “Her visit raised our prestige.”
Kan said there have been news reports that China has protested Tsai’s visit to Hawaii, but said she doesn’t see any consequences ahead.
“They protest a lot of things that we do,” she said.
China has a history of monitoring Taiwan’s presidential transits to the United States and often raises other concerns. President Donald Trump provoked complaints from China in December when he accepted a congratulatory phone call from Tsai —
the first direct contact with a Taiwanese president in nearly 40 years. China also complained this past summer when the U.S. gave notification that it would sell $1.42 billion in arms to Taiwan and discussed resuming Navy port calls in Taiwan.