United States upsets China with new de facto embassy in Taiwan

Frederick Owens
June 15, 2018

The same day that President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un held their historic summit in Singapore, several USA politicians and officials attended another, far less heralded ceremony just to the north: It was the dedication of a ritzy new complex for the American Institute in Taiwan, or AIT - and China wasn't happy about it.

The US on Tuesday inaugurated a new de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties with the island and amid growing tension with China.

Outgoing AIT Director Kin Moy described the American delegation as "perfect" for the occasion, saying the officials represented all of the cooperative areas between United States and Taiwan.

While the opening of the de facto embassy may have strengthened diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it has further strained already weakening diplomatic ties between the USA and China. As a result, the United States' Chinese Embassy is in Beijing.

The US, like many other countries, holds no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

"AIT's new home is a tangible symbol that reflects the strength of our ties", said Royce.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, several Taiwanese government officials as well as legislators were also present.

The US switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979 but maintains close economic, political and security ties with Taiwan. "The great story of Taiwan-US relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building", Tsai said.

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But the AIT said in a statement Sunday that Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, will visit Taiwan June 10-14 and attend the ceremony.

The American Institute in Taiwan is not an official embassy, but a non-profit institution established by the United States government to represent its interest since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 under the One China policy. Though it legally exists as a private organization, it is staffed by career diplomats and other employees of the U.S. State Department.

"I must point out that the US, by sending officials to Taiwan under whatever pretext, severely violates the one-China principle and three China-US joint communiques, interferes in China's internal affairs and exerts negative impact on China-US relations", Geng said during a news conference.

The Trump administration has been upgrading US ties with Taiwan in the past year. That includes a bill encouraging visits between USA and Taiwanese officials at all levels, unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law this year.

Cory Gardner, who recently visited Taiwan in late May, spoke first and took the opportunity to congratulate Taiwan on the opening of the new AIT complex in Neihu.

The new offices, built by USA 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".

China has also stepped up military exercises and air patrols close to Taiwan.

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