USA unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

12 Juin, 2018, 05:27 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

Meanwhile, Marie Royce, assistant secretary of educational and cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, is now in Taiwan to participate in the dedication ceremony, scheduled for June 12, for the AIT's new office complex in Taipei's Neihu District.

The opening coincides with the highly anticipated summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which key diplomatic and security figures in the USA administration are expected to attend.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has been aiming to take advantage of the dedication and the visit by senior U.S. officials to push for further liberalization of arms sales, technological transfers, as well as possible port calls by U.S. warships.

There was speculation that US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton may attend the unveiling ceremony at the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) on June 12, which would have made him one of the most senior American officials to visit Taiwan since 1979 and likely drawn China's ire.

The opening of the new institute compound coincides with heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait in recent months, as mainland China ramps up the pressure on Taipei and has staged several military drills in the island's vicinity, SCMP notes. Trump meanwhile in March signed into law an act allowing officials at all levels of the United States government, including the most senior, to travel to Taiwan. Beijing has ramped up pressure against the independence movement in Taiwan, stepping up military drills around the island and putting the squeeze on its worldwide space as it lures away diplomatic allies.

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Relations between Washington and Beijing are also under strain amid an ongoing trade row and disputes over China's militarisation of the South China Sea. As SCMP reported earlier - citing unnamed USA officials - the U.S. is mulling sending warships, including carrier forces, through the Taiwan Strait.

But the AIT said in a statement Sunday that Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, will visit Taiwan June 10-14 and attend the ceremony.

China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016.

Taiwan papers have also reported that former AIT deputy director Brent Christensen would be promoted to lead Washington's diplomatic mission on the island.

Gregg Harper, Republican congressman and co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, spoke with reporters on Monday morning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and said the new AIT complex shows the importance of the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S.

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