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Taiwan Leader Visits Pacific Allies, to Stop in Hawaii 

FILE - Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech at a New Year's press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Jan. 1, 2019. Taiwan's official Central News Agency said that March 21- 28, Tsai is embarking on a tour of diplomatic allies in the Pacific, including a stop in Hawaii.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen left Thursday on a tour of diplomatic allies in the Pacific that will end with a stopover in Hawaii.

Taiwan has struggled to shore up its dwindling roster of allies as countries are choosing instead to establish relations with Beijing, which considers the self-governing island part of Chinese territory.

Tsai will visit Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.

The agency said she will transit through Hawaii on March 27 on her way back from the Marshall Islands, but did not give further details.

Only 17 mainly small, developing countries still recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. The island split from mainland China amid a civil war in 1949. Beijing has recently ratcheted up its rhetoric around “re-unifying” democratically governed Taiwan with Communist Party-ruled mainland China.

China is particularly sensitive to cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. When the latter approved the sale of $330 million of military equipment to Taiwan last September, China warned of “severe damage” to bilateral relations.

Ahead of a similar stopover in Hawaii in 2017, China demanded that the U.S. bar Tsai from transiting through in order to “avoid sending any erroneous messages to the Taiwan independence force.”