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Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, issued a statement announcing an end to decades-long restrictions on official contact between Washington and Taiwan. He stated the US had “created complex internal restrictions” in a bid to “appease” the Chinese Government.
While the US still does not have an official relationship with Taiwan, Mr Pompeo announced the restrictions had been lifted to allow official contacts to take place.
He added: “The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more.
“Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions.
“Today’s statement recognises that the US-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.”
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The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, Taiwan’s unofficial embassy, hailed the move and said it showed the “strength and depth” of the two countries relationship.
Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s US representative, took to Twitter to praise Mr Pompeo for removing contact restrictions.
He said: “Decades of discrimination, removed.
“A huge day in our bilateral relationship. I will cherish every opportunity.”
China is expected to be angered by the move, as Beijing regards Taiwan as its own territory.
It comes as Kelly Craft, US ambassador to the United Nations (UN), is set to visit Taiwan from January 13 to January 15, becoming the highest ranking Washington official to do so.
Alex Azar, Health Secretary, made a visit to Taiwan last year and offered “strong support” to the country over its coronavirus response.
China’s UN mission immediately responded to news of Mr Craft’s visit and warned “whoever plays with fire will burn himself”.
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Mr Pompeo’s statement is the latest effort by the Trump administration to build a closer relationship with Taiwan.
In 2020, the US sold $5.861 billion worth of weapons systems to Taiwan, sparking outrage from China.
In October last year, Taiwan bought $2.370 billion worth of Harpoon Coastal defence systems to protect against Chinese aircraft and to serve as deterrence.
In response to the weapons sales, Beijing issued sanctions to American arms companies.
It also comes as Mr Trump is set to leave office on January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
A spokesperson for Mr Biden’s transition team said he was “committed to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act”.
The spokesperson added: “Once in office, he will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”
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