Secretary of state Mike Pompeo is lifting restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts, a move welcomed by Taiwan but labelled by some observers a publicity stunt likely designed to anger China.
The announcement came late on Saturday, just 11 days before the departure of President Donald Trump, whose foreign relations have been defined by increased hostilities with Beijing.
In a statement, Pompeo said the US state department had imposed the complex internal restrictions on itself “in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing”, and he was now lifting them all.
The guidelines included restrictions on where representatives could meet, and limited the ranks allowed to attend Taiwan’s national day celebrations. They also said the US should not refer to Taiwan as a “country” or “government”.
The Chinese Communist party has never ruled Taiwan, but Beijing considers it a wayward province that must be returned to the fold, by force if necessary. It claims Taiwan’s governing leaders, who say the island is a sovereign state, are separatists.
Beijing says the status of Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in its relationship with the US. The US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but has for decades operated under legislation mandating the US provide Taiwan with support, including arms sales, in its resistance to Chinese pressure.
Taiwan’s unofficial embassy in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, said the US move showed the “strength and depth” of the US relationship with Taiwan.
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Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922