TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – United States Vice President Mike Pence had a “pull-aside meeting” with Taiwan envoy Morris Chang (張忠謀) at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
As opposition from China prevents Taiwanese presidents from attending the annual APEC event, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) sent the 87-year-old founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to represent her at the November 17-18 conclave in Port Moresby.
According to the AP, a U.S. official told reporters traveling with Pence that the vice president had had a “pull-aside” meeting with Chang, though he failed to provide any further details about the content or length of the meeting.
The Taiwanese envoy reportedly asked for talks on a bilateral free trade deal to start up, with Pence replying he would carry back that request to Washington, according to a Bloomberg report.
The encounter in itself was unprecedented, because previous APEC summit meetings between Taiwan representatives and U.S. government leaders never reached higher than the level of Secretary of State, such as in 2012, when Hillary Clinton met the Taiwan envoy, and 2016 and 2017, when John Kerry headed the State Department.
The meeting between Chang and Pence had first been predicted in the Taiwanese media on Friday, when the TSMC founder left Taiwan, telling reporters “I will do my best.”