US Republican presidential hopefuls head to Taiwan, Japan

The visits come amid heightened tension over self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

The Republican governor of the US state of Virginia has met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen as Republican hopefuls for the United States 2024 presidential race seek to lift their campaigns with international tours.

Glenn Youngkin, a former hedge fund manager who pulled off a surprise win in the Virginia governor’s race, met Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Tuesday as part of a trade mission, their offices said.

Taiwan is “an important partner and model of prosperity for nations across the globe,” Youngkin said as he announced the establishment of a Taiwan-Virginia economic development office.

Tsai said she was happy to receive friends from the US, adding that Taipei has always enjoyed strong links with the state of Virginia.

“That Governor Youngkin has chosen Taiwan as the destination for his first overseas trip since taking office is especially significant,” she said.

The governor, a rising Republican star and considered a possible contender for the 2024 nomination — although he has yet to declare his candidacy — is also due to visit South Korea and Japan.

Florida governor and potential rival Ron DeSantis, who is also on an international tour, is already in Tokyo and met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday. The Republican Party’s early frontrunner is former President Donald Trump, who declared his candidacy last November.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis meets Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. They are shaking hands and smiling.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stopped in Japan as part of a four-nation tour that will also include South Korea, Israel and the UK [Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Reuters]

DeSantis praised Japan as a “great ally” to the US and welcomed a five-year, $315bn military expansion Japan launched last year in the face of an increasingly powerful China and as North Korea steps up its missile launches.

“We very much applaud your efforts to bolster your defences. We understand it’s a tough neighbourhood out here … and we really believe that a strong Japan is good for America, and a strong America is good for Japan,” said DeSantis, who will also travel to South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom.

The visits come amid heightened tension in the region over democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own and refusing to rule out the use of force to achieve its objectives.

China staged days of war games after US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, also a Republican, met Tsai in California earlier this month.

Beijing claims Tsai is a “separatist” who wants independence.

She says it is up to the people of Taiwan to determine their future.

The US has formal relations with Beijing but is Taiwan’s most important international supporter.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies