The U.S. will remove decades-old, self-imposed restrictions on how its diplomats and other officials interact with Taiwan, a move that may inflame tensions with Beijing just a little over a week before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
“For several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, service members, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement Saturday in Washington. “No more.”
The announcement was the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to reshape the U.S. relationship with Taiwan. Donald Trump accepted a telephone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen weeks before taking office in January 2017, has said his support for the “One China” policy was contingent on getting better trade deals, announced arms sales, and sent senior officials to Taipei.
“While the implications of the announcement are not yet clear, it seems the intent is to nudge unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relations toward something more akin to official ties,” said Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School who has written extensively on Taiwan and China.
Taiwan Walks Tightrope Between China and Not China
China opposes meetings between U.S. and Taiwanese officials and has made no secret of its displeasure at improving ties between Washington and Taipei. The Chinese foreign ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on the latest announcement.
Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said in a tweet that he was grateful to Pompeo for “lifting restrictions unnecessarily limiting our engagements.”
“The closer partnership between Taiwan and the U.S. is firmly based on our shared values, common interests and unshakeable belief in freedom and democracy,” the minister said.
Article written by: Stephen Cunningham
Photo credit: The Guardian