President Tsai Ing-wen (???) met with American politicians during a stopover in Houston en route to Central America on Sunday.
Before heading on to Honduras, the first leg of a trip that will also take her to Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, she met with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott.
In the meeting with Abbott, President Tsai stressed that Taiwan and Texas have had trade, investment and tourism exchanges for many years and that there are over 100,000 Taiwanese expatriates in Texas, and over 50,000 in Houston alone.
Taiwan, she said, was Texas' fifth largest export market in Asia in 2015, and Taiwanese business groups such as Formosa Plastics, Foxconn, Inventec and Evergreen have invested more than US$10 billion in the state.
Texas excels in the energy, biotechnology, and national defense sectors, sectors that Taiwan's government is promoting, Tsai said, and she hoped the two sides will have more chances to cooperate in the future.
Abbott said the business environment and regulations in his state have led many Taiwanese businesses to continue to expand their investments there, and he pledged to push for closer relations between Taiwan and Texas.
Cruz, a Republican who has had an up-and-down relationship with President-elect Donald Trump since losing to him in the presidential primary, publicly supported the Dec. 2 phone call between Trump and Tsai, which broke a decades-old convention of no contact between U.S. and Taiwanese leaders.
Cruz said China had asked that he not meet Tsai but that he would not comply with such a request.
China needs to understand that "in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves," he said.
"This is not about the PRC. This is about the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, an ally we are legally bound to defend."
Cruz also said he and Tsai discussed "arms sales, diplomat exchanges and economic relations" and that he hoped to increase trade between Texas and Taiwan.
American Institute in Taiwan Chairman James Moriarty said in a separate meeting on Saturday with Tsai that the U.S. has taken note of the current chill in cross-strait relations and that the U.S. continues to urge China to resume dialogue with Taiwan, according to a presidential aide traveling with Tsai.
The president also met Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and talked with Senator John McCain from Arizona over the phone, in addition to meeting with Taiwanese expatriates in the city.
Presidential spokesman Alex Huang (???) denied, meanwhile, that Tsai had lunch with Edwin Feulner, a founder of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Walter Lohman, director of the foundation's Asian Studies Center, and Randall Schriver, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Asia.
Taiwan's Liberty Times reported the meeting and said the discussion focused on the recent situation in the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan-U.S. relations.
Feulner, who met with President Tsai in November during a visit to Taiwan, joined Trump's transition team in August 2016 before Trump was elected president.
Huang said the names of the "U.S. friends" with whom Tsai had lunch will not be released because of a tacit agreement with the United States, but "the list of lunch guests reported by related media was erroneous."
Two members of the Texas House of Representatives, Blake Farenthold and Sheila Jackson Lee, also accompanied Tsai's delegation to a fine arts museum and a dinner with Taiwanese expatriates in Houston.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel