Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

US opens de facto embassy in Taiwan, angering China

US opens de facto embassy in Taiwan, angering China

The American Institute in Taiwan has represented the United States in Taipei since 1979, when the US government formally adopted its "One China" policy.

The new complex, a major upgrade from the low-key military building the AIT had used for decades, will serve as the representative office later this summer, said AIT Director Kin Moy.

For the opening of the new compound, the United States sent Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, as its highest attendee.

"We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through", Royce said, according to Reuters.

Donald Trump's administration is moving to strengthen ties with Taiwan in the face of China's diplomatic moves and military threats.

The US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but continues to have close economic, political and security ties with the democratic self-ruled island. "The Trump Administration has been slow to fill key posts in the State Department, which is bad for US allies in East Asia, Taiwan included". That's largely because Beijing forces the worldwide community to form ties with either the People's Republic of China (commonly referred to as "China") or the Republic of China (commonly referred to as Taiwan).

"The United States sending officials to Taiwan under any excuses is in serious violation of the "one China" principle," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

In comments certain to rile Beijing, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the new complex was a reaffirmation of both sides commitment to a "vital relationship".

The AIT building, spread over 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land, costs around $250 million and will employ more than 500 people and would be protected by US Marines. However U.S. lawmakers have continued to lobby to support Taiwan, and Washington still sells hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to Taiwan, despite China's objections.

Senior U.S. diplomats and Taiwan's president attended Tuesday's dedication ceremony, which took place in Taipei.

In December 2016, then President-elect Trump accepted a precedence-shattering phone call from Tsai to congratulate him on his election victory, marking the highest-level contact between the two sides in nearly 40 years.

The new AIT offices are being unveiled amid heightened concerns in Beijing over increasing U.S. involvement in Taiwan.

These included live-fire drills, sailing China's only aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, and dispatching its fighters and bombers for "encirclement patrols".

"It's been said before that Taiwan is being used as a bargaining chip, and so far we can not rule that out", Lin said.

In March, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which aims to increase travel and visits "at all levels", including state officials and business leaders, both on the U.S. and the Taiwanese side.

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