June 18, 2018

US lauds its ties with Taiwan on dedication of new office

14 June 2018, 04:29 | Taylor George

Flickr wei zheng wang Washington Wants to Play'Taiwan Card to Exert Pressure on China- Analysts

Flickr  wei zheng wang Washington Wants to Play'Taiwan Card to Exert Pressure on China- Analysts

The United States opened a $256 million de facto embassy in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday amid rising trade tensions with China, Reuters reported.

The completion of the new AIT offices - built over nine years at a cost of $250 million - comes amid closer US-Taiwan ties.

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.

The complex's opening marks the strengthening of diplomatic ties between Washington and Taiwan.

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.

For instance, he said, in the U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats do not always get along, but "we recently passed the Taiwan Travel Act unanimously".

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 friendship between Taiwan and the United States has never been more promising", Tsai said. The institute is expected to move in before the end of the year, according to the Straits Times. It manages its relations through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

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The massive $256 million complex, complete with Chinese gardens, occupies 6.5 hectares and will house almost 500 American and local employees.

The New York Times notes there was speculation President Trump originally planned a "bolder show of support for Taiwan", perhaps by sending a Cabinet-level official to attend the ceremony, but reconsidered in light of delicate trade negotiations with China and his summit meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

"I offer you this", he said, "a tangible symbol that the United States is here to stay".

The spokesman also urged Washington to "correct the wrong" to avoid undermining Sino-U.S. relations and destabilize the Taiwan Strait. Tsai, who leads the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, has refused Beijing's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China, leading to a prolonged freeze in relations that had been gradually warming under her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-unification Nationalist Party.

China has been ramping up pressure on Taiwan since the election in 2016, blocking the self-ruled island from participating in worldwide organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and poaching its diplomatic allies.

The new AIT compound was constructed over nine years and has cost the USA some $250 million. The U.S. also agreed to shift its official diplomatic focus to Beijing over Taipei.

"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.

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