Barack Obama and her Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou meet to further cement relations between Washington and Taipei
The two leaders of Taiwan and the United States have held a surprise meeting ahead of President Ma Ying-jeou’s state visit, which began on Saturday, in what could be seen as a sweetener to discourage Taiwan’s potential bid for statehood in the region.
Obama will also hold a state dinner on Saturday, something unthinkable before 2009 when President Ma came to the US seeking praise and support for his policy of peace with China.
Ma and his delegation arrived in Washington on Saturday afternoon from the White House on a specially chartered Air Force One for a five-day visit that will culminate in a state dinner hosted by President Obama at the White House on Saturday evening.
Also at the meeting were Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and senior administration officials.
Addressing reporters during a separate briefing after a summit with Ma, Biden praised China’s co-operation and credited Ma’s hard-line governance policies. “I have an enormous amount of respect for Ma Ying-jeou for standing up and saying to the Chinese government ‘I want to sit down and try to get this relationship moving and agree on a strategy of how to deal with [China]’,” Biden said.
Biden, who served as a senator from Delaware until February, was also not shy about condemning China’s human rights record, saying: “I cannot stand here and make allusions to individual rights and the privilege of being an American without commending [Ma] for being able to say to the leaders of China – in an area that is so important to the China of the future – ‘I understand you have a problem’ and they’ve listened and they’ve responded,” Biden said.
A White House official, who declined to give her name, told Reuters on Saturday morning that Obama called Ma at 10pm US time on Friday night to tell him the president would greet him at the White House.
The Taiwanese media have reported that Ma had asked Obama to meet his delegation at the White House. During his summit, Obama will not meet Taiwan’s estranged relations with China or its president Tsai Ing-wen.
The official told Reuters that a formal meeting between Obama and Tsai, who will visit the US in November, will occur during her official trip to the US.
Tensions between the two sides intensified earlier this year after Beijing accused Taipei of breaking a 2008 promise to extend friendly and transparent negotiations to a potential security alliance with the US. China also rejected Taipei’s claim that it is a part of Taiwan, and its mainland unification aspirations.