TAIPEI: The US introduced on Wednesday its highest-level go to to Taiwan because it switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a transfer Beijing blasted as a menace to “peace and stability”.
The go to, headed by well being chief Alex Azar, comes as relations between the world’s two largest powers plunge to historic lows.
“This marks… the first Cabinet member to visit in six years, and the highest level visit by a US Cabinet official since 1979,” mentioned Washington’s de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, with no date but given for the go to.
Washington stays the main arms provider to the island however has traditionally been cautious in holding official contacts with it.
Beijing views Taiwan as its personal territory — vowing to in the future seize it — and bristles at any strikes by different international locations to recognise or talk with Taipei.
“China firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mentioned as he known as for the go to to be cancelled. “We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle… to avoid seriously endangering Sino-US relations, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Taiwan mentioned Azar would meet President Tsai Ing-wen.
“(The) timely visit is another testament to the strong Taiwan-US partnership based on our longstanding friendship and shared values,” Tsai wrote on Twitter.
Relations have warmed dramatically below President Donald Trump, who has used embracing democratic Taiwan extra intently as a technique to hit again at authoritarian Beijing as he clashes with China on a number of points, together with commerce and coronavirus.
Taiwan’s success at stopping its personal virus outbreak — and its emergence as certainly one of Asia’s most progressive democracies — has additionally earned the island rising bipartisan assist in Washington.
“The Trump administration is increasing its relations with Taiwan to a record-high level, sending a message to China that the US will not sacrifice Taiwan for its relations with China,” Eric Huang, a global relations analyst at Tamkang College in Taipei, mentioned.
Shortly after Trump’s election win in 2016, Tsai phoned to congratulate him, making him the primary president — sitting or newly elected — to talk straight with a Taiwanese chief since 1979.
Taiwan is massively outgunned by China and Trump’s administration has offered a variety of big-ticket army gadgets — together with fighter jets — that earlier presidents extra cautious of angering Beijing had balked at.
Trump additionally signed a bipartisan invoice in 2018 upgrading relations and permitting extra high-level visits to happen.
Of their statements Washington and Taipei painted Azar’s go to as linked to Taiwan being a number one instance within the battle towards the pandemic.
Regardless of its proximity and shut financial ties to China — the place the outbreak emerged late final yr — Taiwan has fewer than 500 circumstances and simply seven deaths because of a world-class tracing and testing regime and a digital shutdown of its borders.
However Beijing sees Azar’s go to as a part of a wider try to offer Taiwan better worldwide recognition.
It has ramped up diplomatic, financial and army stress on Taiwan ever because the 2016 election of Tsai, who rejects Beijing’s view that the island in a part of “one China”.
It retains Taiwan diplomatically frozen out of world our bodies such because the World Well being Group, and has poached its dwindling variety of official allies.
That stress marketing campaign has solely bolstered Tsai, who received a landslide re-election earlier this yr.
“Beijing… will likely view (the visit) as further evidence of the Trump administration moving away from the ‘one China policy’,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Energy Challenge on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research, mentioned.
“But it isn’t precedent-setting and it is justifiable given Taiwan’s exemplary performance in responding to Covid-19 and Beijing’s exclusion of Taiwan from the World Health Assembly.” Clayton Dube, director of the College of Southern California’s US-China Institute, mentioned sending a well being official must be “less contentious” than an envoy from the State Division or Pentagon.
The final cabinet-level journey to Taiwan was in 2014 with the then head of the Environmental Safety Company. In 2000, a transport secretary visited.
Revealed in Daybreak, August sixth, 2020