Former US officials to visit Taiwan for post-election talks

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Two former senior U.S. officials will arrive in Taiwan on Sunday for post-election talks and underscore the U.S. government’s “longstanding interest” in peace across the Taiwan Strait, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said.

Lai Ching-te from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election on Saturday and will take office on May 20.

In a show of support for the government, a senior administration official said last week that President Joe Biden planned to send an unofficial delegation to the Chinese-claimed island.

The Biden administration has feared that the election, transition and new administration would escalate conflict with Beijing.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which handles relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties, said former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg would visit.

“As we have done previously following a Taiwan presidential election, the U.S. government has asked former senior officials to travel in their private capacity to Taiwan,” AIT said, adding its U.S.-based Chair Laura Rosenberger would be accompanying.

“On Jan. 15, they will meet with a range of leading political figures and convey congratulations from the American people to Taiwan on its successful elections, support for Taiwan’s continued prosperity and growth, and our longstanding interest in cross-Strait peace and stability.”

Two sources familiar with the trip, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters such a post-election visit by former senior U.S. officials was routine and not out of the ordinary.

Before the poll China repeatedly called Lai a dangerous separatist. China has stepped up its military and political pressure against Taiwan over the past four years.

Lai and current President Tsai Ing-wen reject Beijing’s sovereignty claims and say only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. Both have offered talks with China but been rebuffed.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry and Christian Schmollinger)