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Taiwan's VP Lai meets Kamala Harris for 1st time publicly

Lai, Harris meet at Honduran President Xiomara Castro's inauguration

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Kamala Harris (left) speaks with Lai ching-te. (Office of the President photo)

Kamala Harris (left) speaks with Lai ching-te. (Office of the President photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) met with Vice President Kamala Harris for the first time publicly during the inauguration of new Honduras President Xiomara Castro amid conflicting reports as to whether the two would meet or not.

U.S. Representatives Tom Tiffany and Scott Perry on Jan. 20 penned a letter calling on Harris to publicly meet with Lai during her visit to Honduras for Castro's inauguration to "reinforce our robust support for Taiwan." Although local Taiwanese media had reported rumors that the two would meet, a U.S. official was cited by CNA as saying that no such meeting would take place.

However, during Castro's inauguration on Thursday (Jan. 27), Harris greeted Lai and interacted with him for about 20 to 30 seconds, as he stood in the front row near Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Spanish King Felipe VI, according to Liberty Times. This represents the first time that Lai and Harris have publicly interacted since they have taken office.

Taiwan's VP Lai meets Kamala Harris for 1st time publicly
Lai (right) speaks with Harris at Castro's inauguration. (CNA photo)

During a press briefing after meeting with Castro, Harris said that Lai had approached her and that the two had spoken about common interests in Central America and the White House's Root Causes Strategy to stem illegal immigration from the region to the U.S., reported Reuters. Harris stated that the subject of China did not come up.

Lai entered the packed national stadium at 10:40 a.m. and was met with cheers and applause. He reciprocated by patting his chest and blowing kisses at the crowd in the stands where the Taiwan flag could be seen, according to CNA.

As the VIP guest of the event, Harris did not enter the stadium until the inauguration ceremony was in progress and as the blue and white presidential sash was being placed on Castro. After she entered the venue, she greeted heads of state one by one, including Lai.

During the ceremony to bestow the presidential sash on Castro, Harris and Lai could be seen casually chatting with each other. When Harris was officially introduced, the crowd reportedly cheered in approval.