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Taiwan VP concludes overseas trip to US as tensions with Beijing mount

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Taiwan Vice President William Lai wrapped up his visit to the United States and Honduras with a virtual meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a further show of support from Washington for the Chinese-claimed island.

Lai went to Honduras this week for the inauguration of its new president, seeking to shore up shaky ties with one of Taiwan’s last remaining diplomatic allies.

Only 14 countries now maintain official ties with Taiwan, viewed by Beijing as Chinese territory with no right to the trappings of a state.

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Stopping off in San Francisco on Friday on his way back to Taiwan, Lai said he had spoken virtually with Pelosi, one of the ruling Democratic Party’s most high-profile politicians.

“I was pleased to meet with @SpeakerPelosi, a champion of human rights and true friend to Taiwan. We are committed to working together to strengthen the US-Taiwan partnership,” Lai tweeted, sharing a picture of the video call, also attended by the de facto Taiwanese ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim.

Lai briefly talked with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Honduras on Thursday, a rare encounter that was highly symbolic and provoked anger in Beijing at a time of simmering tension with Washington.

The United States has no formal relations with Taiwan either, but is its most important international backer and arms supplier.

Transiting Los Angeles on his way to Honduras, Lai also spoke virtually with over a dozen members of the US Congress.

Lai is a potential contender for president in Taiwan’s next election in 2024.

Taiwan has been heartened by continued US support offered it by the Biden administration, which has repeatedly talked of its “rock-solid” commitment to the democratically governed island.

That has further strained already poor Sino-US relations.

China and the United States could end up in a military conflict if the United States encourages Taiwan’s independence, Beijing’s ambassador to Washington said in a US radio interview broadcast on Friday.

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