Taiwan: United States opens de facto embassy in capital Taipei, angers China


The United States unveiled a new $256 million representative office in Taiwan's capital on Tuesday, a de facto embassy that underscores Washington's strategic ties with the self-ruled island as it faces escalating tensions with China.

Marie Royce, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said that the opening of the new complex represented the strengthening of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Taiwan, which have been almost nonexistent since 1979.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has become increasingly marginalised on the global stage with the loss of diplomatic allies who previously recognised the government of the self-ruled island, but have now switched to Beijing.

Royce is the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.

"The United States sending officials to Taiwan under any excuses is in serious violation of the "one China" principle," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

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With the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, Harper said, he foresees more visits to Taiwan by high-level US officials.

The AIT will move into its new complex later this year.

The AIT building, spread over 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land, costs around $250 million and will employ more than 500 people and would be protected by US Marines.

The precarious balance Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen must navigate between a more assertive China and the uncertainty of American policy will be in focus Tuesday when she attends the opening of a new de facto USA embassy.

Tsai wrote in a tweet that the dedication of the office compound was an opportunity to "rededicate ourselves to our shared commitment that as free & open democracies, Taiwan & US have an obligation to work w/one another to defend our shared values". Taiwanese media United Daily News reported that key materials used in its construction were imported from the United States, and the buildings in the complex could withstand certain levels of attacks.

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In the face of this rift, the U.S. still maintains ties with Taiwan through "unofficial" channels like AIT.

There is a strong pro-independence sentiment within Taiwan's current ruling party led by Tsai, prompting Beijing to harden its stance and stress its long-standing promise to retake the island by force if necessary.

Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster the island's defences.

Beijing has also increased the frequency of military exercises in the last few months, including deploying its own aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the Taiwan Strait.

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 U.S. and the Taiwanese side.

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"We must draw a red line for the USA and Taiwan".