Upon his arrival in New York on Sunday, Lai expressed his contentment on the social media platform X, describing his pleasure at reaching the renowned “Big Apple,” which stands as an emblem of liberty, democracy, and opportunities.
Lai recounted being warmly received at the airport by representatives from the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto liaison for the island in the United States. He eagerly anticipated reconnecting with friends and participating in transit activities during his stay in New York.
According to a source familiar with the travel arrangements, Lai intends to engage with overseas Taiwanese communities during his stopover in New York. He plans to address the audience during gatherings, although his schedule will avoid formal meetings with US legislators.
This subdued approach aligns with the shared stance of Taipei and Washington, aimed at cautiously navigating potential risks in the face of an authoritarian context during this delicate period.
Taiwanese officials speculate that China may conduct military exercises near Taiwan in the coming week, potentially exploiting Lai’s presence during his US layovers as a pretext to unnerve voters in anticipation of next year’s election and evoke concerns about conflict.
Notably, the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army, which holds responsibility for the Taiwan region, released a brief video on its WeChat account depicting fighter jets engaged in dogfight training at an undisclosed location. The statement mentioned recent involvement in intense flight training exercises.