Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

U.S. unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

U.S. unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

Washington gave up official diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 to recognise Beijing, but it remains the island's most powerful ally and top arms supplier. The Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially known, is also a major purchaser of American-made military hardware and is among the top 10 USA trade partners with $65.3 billion in total two way trade during 2016.

But the USA sent an assistant secretary of state for the unveiling, a visit less likely to unnerve China which was concerned that higher-level officials may attend. It manages its relations through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

A dedication ceremony for the US$250 million four-storey office compound was attended on Tuesday morning by senior officials from Taiwan and the U.S., including the island's President Tsai Ing-wen.

In remarks at the ceremony, AIT Director Kin W Moy called the new building "a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan".

Commenting on US-Taiwan relations, Harper said that as the caucus co-chair, he would assure people in Taiwan that "in Washington DC, our commitment is as strong or stronger than ever, and will continue that way in the future".

A smiling Tsai said the new building was a symbol of "more promising" relations between Washington and Taipei.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949 but Beijing views the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Beijing has sought to increase political pressure on the island, halting any cross strait dialogue and isolating it internationally by poaching its few overseas diplomatic allies.

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

Taiwan, meanwhile, has become increasingly marginalised on the worldwide stage with the loss of diplomatic allies who previously recognised the government of the self-ruled island, but have now switched to Beijing.

Beijing officials have described intensified Chinese military drills near the island as a warning against any moves to assert its sovereignty.

But the USA still enjoys a "robust unofficial relationship" with the island nation of 23 million people, according to the State Department.

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