A senior US official arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, on a visit that outraged Beijing and represents the most important official US delegation on the Chinese island since 1979, when it failed to recognize its autonomous sovereignty.
US Secretary of Health Alex Azar is due to meet in the next three days with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, an opponent of Chinese authorities who accuse him of seeking independence from the island, with 23 million inhabitants.
Azar represents the most important American leader to visit Taiwan since 1979, when Washington broke diplomatic relations with Taipei (the island’s capital) to recognize the sovereignty of Beijing’s communist authorities over China.
The United States, however, continued to be an important ally of Taiwan and its main arms supplier.
– Success against coronavirus –
This visit comes at the height of tensions between Beijing and Washington, which recently announced restrictions on Chinese TikTok and WeChat apps and economic sanctions on eleven Hong Kong leaders after the adoption of a restrictive security law.
However, the United States government presented the trip as an opportunity to congratulate the Taiwanese authorities for the good management of the new coronavirus, in a moment of fragility for President Donald Trump due to the damage caused by the pandemic in his country, with more than 160,000 dead. .
“This trip represents recognition of Taiwan’s success in the fight against COVID-19,” a senior US official told reporters.
Despite its geographic proximity and commercial ties with mainland China, where the coronavirus started, Taiwan registered less than 500 cases of coronavirus and only seven deaths.
The People’s Republic of China considers the island to be a province, despite being governed by a rival regime that took refuge there after the Communists seized power in Beijing in 1949 after winning the civil war.
Taiwan is not recognized as an independent state by the UN and Beijing threatens to resort to force in the event of Taipei’s declaration of independence or foreign intervention, especially by Washington.
– Red line –
The Chinese government considered Azar’s visit a few days ago as a threat to “peace and stability”.
The US Secretary of Health will also meet his Taiwanese counterpart, Chen Shih-chung, and the island’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu.
According to Douglas Paal, who headed the United States’ Taiwan Institute during the presidency of George W. Bush, the Trump administration is aware of the danger of heightening tensions with China through Taiwan, a red line for Chinese officials.
For this reason, he refrained from sending leaders involved in security issues to the island.
Senior US officials in charge of foreign trade had already traveled to Taipei in the 1990s, but, according to Paal, the difference was that relations between Beijing and Washington were not as strained.
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