Monday, 25 June, 2018

Washington opens de facto embassy in Taiwan, angering China

James Moriarty Marie Royce Tsai Ing-wen William Moser Kin Moy James Moriarty Marie Royce Tsai Ing-wen William Moser Kin Moy
Steven Clarke | 12 June, 2018, 22:31

The recently completed American Institute in Taiwan office in a suburb of the capital Taipei will house US representatives and serves American interests in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. To officials in the US and Taiwan, Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Taipei symbolizes the strength of their partnership. 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.

AIT chairman James Moriarty called the new complex a "milestone" in the US-Taiwan relationship and a "testament to the strong US commitment to Taiwan".

In March, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which aims to increase travel and visits "at all levels", including state officials and business leaders, both on the USA and the Taiwanese side.

Through a press statement issued last weekend, the AIT, two days ahead of the ceremony, announced that Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for educational and cultural affairs, would represent the US government to unveil the new AIT complex with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and other top officials from her administration.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Marie Royce are expected to speak at today's event, the AIT said.

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

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing was "gravely concerned" with the inauguration of the building. The move was condemned by Beijing as a blatant violation of its "One China" policy.

The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979 but maintains close economic, political and security ties with Taiwan.

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Apart from keeping to a schedule suggested by fengshui experts hired by the AIT, its employees and staff, led by Moy and his wife, were holding incense and praying for good luck behind a table placed with fruit and flowers as offerings to the gods before the ceremony - a common practice for businesses in Taiwan on special occasions.

In March, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act that encourages high-level visits between the two sides.

And China has taken close notice of these developments.

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. China also has recently pointedly conducted several military drills in the Taiwan strait and around the island.

The new AIT complex.

The US is embroiled in a major trade row with China, but is keen to avoid a diplomatic fallout as it needs Beijing's help to solve the North Korea nuclear issue.

"We should all be proud of this milestone, which is a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan", AIT Director Kin W. Moy, the USA ambassador in all but name, said at the dedication ceremony.

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

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