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Taiwan envoy to US joins presidential race

Ruling party’s leading candidate picks Taipei’s top diplomat in Washington as running mate

Taiwan’s leading presidential candidate has chosen the self-ruled island’s envoy to the United States as his vice-presidential running mate, making the race a battle between pro-Washington and pro-Beijing interests.

Ruling party candidate Lai Ching-te, currently Taiwan’s vice president, has chosen Hsiao Bi-khim as his running mate, according to local and Western media reports Thursday. Hsiao, billed by Reuters as a “fluent English speaker with close connections in Washington”, he has been Taipei’s envoy to the United States since 2020.

The news comes a day after Taiwan’s main opposition parties agreed to form a joint team in January’s elections to consolidate their political support and increase their chances of beating Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP accuses rival parties of being manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and of bending to “the will of Beijing”.

The election will likely determine whether Taiwan can ease tensions with Beijing, which has pledged to reunify with the breakaway province — by force, if necessary. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have both pledged to continue negotiations with the mainland government to “restore peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” “. Chinese authorities have called Lai a separatist and a “troublemaker.”

Beijing suspended diplomatic contacts with Taipei after the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen took office as president in 2016. Tsai hosted visits from American politicians, angering the CCP, and accelerated her arms purchases American. For its part, the People’s Liberation Army has conducted large-scale war games across the Taiwan Strait.

The last survey Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS showed Lai leading the presidential race with the support of 33 percent of voters. TPP candidate Ko Wen-je and KMT’s Hou Yu-ih received 24% and 22% of the vote, respectively, in the polls. The TPP and KMT agreed Wednesday to choose one of their candidates, based on a joint analysis of polls, and then make the other candidate their vice presidential running mate.

TVBS reported that an official announcement on Hsiao’s selection as Lai’s running mate is expected to be made on Monday, the first day of official candidate registration. Hsiao is currently attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where US President Joe Biden held a highly anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.

The envoy is said to be returning to Taiwan for the presidential campaign after the APEC summit. A spokesperson for Lai’s campaign, Vincent Chao, declined to confirm that Hsiao would join the DPP list. Without naming the chosen candidate, he told Reuters the vice presidential nominee “will reinforce our commitment to the people of Taiwan and the international community that democracy, peace and prosperity will continue to be our guiding values.” .

Former Pentagon official Randall Schriver described Hsiao as a good promoter of U.S.-Taiwan relations. “If Ambassador Hsiao becomes vice president, there is no doubt that it will benefit U.S.-Taiwan relations,” he told Reuters.

Hsiao was born in Japan to a Taiwanese father and an American mother. She studied at university in the United States and was a long-time international spokesperson for the DPP. Beijing has twice imposed sanctions on Hsiao and labeled her a diehard separatist. The most recent sanctions came in April, banning her and her family members from traveling to the mainland, Hong Kong or Macau.


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