Washington angers Beijing with high-profile Taiwan visit

Washington angers Beijing with high-profile Taiwan visit
Mr Azar praised Taiwan for its response to Covid-19 outbreak. Source: EPA
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Daily US Times: On Monday, a US cabinet member met the president of Taiwan – a step that has angered China and increased tensions between the US and China

The US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is the highest-ranking US politician to hold meetings on the island for decades.

to all intents and purposes, Taiwan is an independent state, but China regards it as a breakaway province.

Beijing urged Washington to respect what it called its “one China” principle.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said last week: “China firmly opposes any official interactions between the US and Taiwan.”

“We urge the US… not to send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ elements to avoid severe damage to China-US relations.”

Mr Azar arrived in the island a day before meeting President Tsai Ing-wen. He said there were “three overarching themes” for the visit.

“The first is to recognise Taiwan as an open and democratic society, executing a highly successful and transparent Covid-19 response,” Mr Azar said.

“The second is to reaffirm Taiwan as a long partner and friend of the United States,” he added.

“The third is to note that Taiwan deserves to be recognised as a global health leader with an excellent track record of contributing to international health.”

The high-profile trip is likely to worsen relations between China and the US, which have nosedived this year to their lowest point in decades. For years, rivalries and tensions have simmered between the world’s two largest economies over technology, trade and geopolitics, but the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a further blow to their already damaged ties.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the visit would be a “testament to the solid mutual trust and smooth communication between the island and the US” and the “close partnership the two nations share.”

Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization, because it is not recognised by the United Nations or China. Although the United State does not have a formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act commits it to “close relations” and allows the US to sell arms to the island.

The Taiwan government asked the WHO for more information about the virus on 31 December, but said it got no reply.

That was seized upon by US President Donald Trump in April, in a tweet criticising the WHO.

The WHO said the Taiwanese email “made no mention of human-to-human transmission”.

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