Taiwan presidential front-runner picks former de facto ambassador to US as vice president

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The front-runner in Taiwan’s presidential race has picked the long-term de facto ambassador to the United States as his vice presidential candidate.

Vice President William Lai announced Monday on his Facebook page the nomination of Hsiao Bi-ki — who was born in Japan to a Taiwanese father and an American mother — as his running mate in January’s elections. His choice would likely bolster support among backers of his ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has long defied Beijing’s demands to return the island under the rule of the authoritarian Communist Party.

Lai and Hsiao face a divided opposition, led by the Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang or KMT, that has sought to draw independent candidates to their ticket. Polls show Lai is ahead, but China is believed to be seeking to influence business groups and media.

Lai currently serves as vice president to President Tsai Ing-wen, who is restricted from running for a third four-year term. In his Facebook post, Tsai said Hsiao had been crucial to cooperation with the U.S., Taiwan’s chief ally.

“This team, following President Tsai’s eight years in power, is completely prepared to withstand all challenges, both domestically and from China,” Lai’s post said.

Hsiao later told a news conference that she had been prepared well to deal with a range of challenges by her upbringing, her years as a legislator representing eastern Taiwan and her eight years as Taiwan’s representative in Washington.

Taiwan faces threats to its democracy from within and to its security from outside, “but there is no way I can avoid this,” said Hsiao, 52, who was partly raised in New Jersey and has degrees from Oberlin College and Columbia University.

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