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China angered over Kamala Harris meeting with Taiwan vice president

Harris said she spoke with William Lai about their shared interest in Central America and the U.S. government’s “root causes” strategy to curb migration.
Vice President Harris speaks with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai during the Honduran Presidential inauguration ceremony in Tegucigalpa in this image released on Jan. 28, 2022.Taiwan Presidential Office / AFP - Getty Images

China has consistently opposed any form of official interaction between the United States and Taiwan, the country's foreign ministry said Friday, after a brief meeting between Vice President Kamala Harris and her Taiwanese counterpart in Honduras.

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comment at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Harris told reporters she spoke with William Lai about their shared interest in Central America and the U.S. government’s “root causes” strategy to curb migration.

“The brief conversation that we had was really about a common interest in this part of the region and apparently Taiwan‘s interest in our root causes strategy,” she said, adding Lai had approached her.

The pair were in Honduras for the inauguration new president, Xiomara Castro.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, though its strong support for the island both politically and through arms sales is one of the main sources of Sino-U.S. friction.

China considers self-governed Taiwan to be part of its territory.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency characterized it as a “simple greeting”, saying the two “talked briefly and interacted naturally”.

It carried a picture of them standing next to each other on a stage talking, both wearing face masks, and Lai sporting a lapel pin of entwined Taiwanese and Honduran flags.

Lai told reporters traveling with him that when speaking to Harris he thanked the United States for its “rock-solid” help to Taiwan, and that he thought Harris was a “very capable person”, the Central News Agency reported.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the United States should “take actual steps to put into effect its promises not to support Taiwan independence, and stop playing with fire on the Taiwan issue”.

Honduras is one of only 14 countries with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Castro, floated the idea of ditching Taipei for Beijing in her election campaign, though on Wednesday she told Lai that Honduras is grateful for Taiwan’s support and hopes to maintain their relationship.

Castro and Lai met again on Thursday, with Lai handing over a donation of supplies to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lai invited Castro to visit Taiwan, and told her that as both Taiwan and Honduras have close ties with Washington he hoped the three parties could work together to address the country’s problems, Taiwan’s presidential office said.

Speaking after her meeting with Castro, Harris said they did not discuss China.

Beijing has ramped up pressure to reduce Taiwan’s international footprint, saying the democratically governed island is Chinese territory with no right to state-to-state ties.