Straining ties with China, US unveils new de-facto embassy in Taiwan

Frederick Owens
June 14, 2018

The new offices, built by US and Taiwanese workers, cost more than $255 million and was designed as an "expression of the values of American democracy, and a demonstration of respect for Taiwan".

Royce is the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015. And on Tuesday, the representative office that has handled many of those informal affairs got a roughly $256 million upgraded compound in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

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".

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

Joining Moy was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, who called the new office "a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the U.S. -Taiwan partnership in the 21st century".

The Taiwanese news agency said the island's foreign minister would hold a briefing on Thursday.

Chinese authorities made clear they did not share that sense of celebration, however.

China has lodged stern representations with the United States over its official exchanges with Taiwan, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday.

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Taiwan also risks being sidelined in Washington if Trump feels satisfied that China has addressed its massive trade surplus with the USA, said retired strategic studies professor Lin Chong-pin.

The American Institute in Taiwan is not an official embassy, but a non-profit institution established by the USA government to represent its interest since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 under the One China policy.

The ceremony comes at a time when bilateral relations between Beijing and Washington have been severely tested over the ongoing trade negotiation and rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea. In March, he signed the Taiwan Travel Act that encourages high-level visits between the two sides.

And China has taken close notice of these developments.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan under its "one China" policy, and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it sees as a wayward province under its control. China also has recently pointedly conducted several military drills in the Taiwan strait and around the island.

Commenting on U.S. -Taiwan relations, Harper said that as the co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Taiwan Caucus, he can assure people in Taiwan that "in Washington D.C., our commitment is as strong or stronger than ever, and will continue that way in the future". The organization, which was first established in 1979 after the diplomatic shift, plans to officially relocate to the new facility this fall.

American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) director Kin Moy told Reuters that the complex will be used as a representative office later in the summer.

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