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September 27, 2017

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Presidential Office declines to comment on potential meeting with Trump camp

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Tsai Ing-wen will make transit stops in Houston and San Francisco during her upcoming state visit to four of the nation's diplomatic allies in Central America, the Presidential Office announced Friday.

The announcement, made weeks after Taiwanese media reported that she planned to visit Central America, was seen as the president's effort to make her trip less contentious to Washington and Beijing.

Presidential Office Spokesman Alex Huang said Tsai would make a stopover in Houston en route to Central America and San Francisco on her return trip to Taiwan.

Huang would not say whether the president would meet with representatives of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump during her stopover in the U.S. amid media speculation that such a meeting could take place.

The office had confirmed last week that Tsai would visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between Jan. 7 and Jan. 15 but it had not disclosed the locations of her U.S. transit stops as is typically the case.

Huang previously denied assertions that the delay to the transit stop announcement was due to political "pressure" from mainland China, saying that time was needed to arrange plans.

'Solid ties'

Beijing has repeatedly called on Washington not to let Tsai visit the U.S. during her upcoming trip.

The trip — Tsai's second overseas tour since she took office in May — has been in the spotlight since Sao Tome and Principe severed diplomatic relations with the R.O.C. on Dec. 21, leaving Taiwan with 21 allies.

Local media have speculated that China intended to lure away more of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, as relations between the two sides have been strained since Tsai took office in May.

Media have further suggested that Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Honduras and Nicaragua are on shaky ground ahead of Tsai's scheduled visit.

The Presidential Office and the Foreign Ministry have both asserted that relations with these allies were solid.

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