Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

US draws anger from China by reopening Taiwan 'embassy'

US draws anger from China by reopening Taiwan 'embassy'

The US Assistant Secretary of State on Cultural Affairs, Marie Royce, will visit Taiwan's capital Taipei to attend a ceremony opening a new building housing the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), widely acknowledged as the de facto American embassy to Taiwan.

"The great story of Taiwan-US relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building", Tsai said to emphasize the importance of the new offices.

AIT Director Kin W. Moy - the USA ambassador in all but name - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and a senior State Department official from Washington, attended Tuesday's ceremony, which Beijing slammed as harmful to U.S. The non-profit institute is primarily staffed by employees of the U.S. State Department. Beijing has been more hostile since Tsai was elected Taiwan's president in 2016 because she refuses to recognise the "one China" policy.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the new building was a reaffirmation of commitment to a "vital relationship" between the USA and Taiwan.

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Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party says it wants stable relations with China, but hasn't followed Tsai's predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, in endorsing the "one China" principle.

Meanwhile, the AIT is happily plowing ahead with its big move.

The massive $256 million complex, complete with Chinese gardens, occupies 6.5 hectares and will house almost 500 American and local employees.

"The opening tomorrow of the new AIT headquarters shows how important our relationship is to the U.S.", Gregg Harper (R-MS) told reporters in Taipei.

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According to Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at University of Nottingham, it's possible that the Trump administration has prevented its highest figures from attending the ceremony in order to ensure Beijing cooperates with the US's attempts to denuclearize North Korea. 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.

Taiwan-US relations have since been handled delicately and in a low-key manner through the AIT to avoid riling China - which sees the island as part of its territory to be reunified, by force if necessary. The United States opened AIT shortly after terminating formal ties with Taipei - a diplomatic workaround that has irked Beijing. China also has recently pointedly conducted several military drills in the Taiwan strait and around the island.

Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster the island's defences. "There's no escaping the fact that this is a significant symbol of the enduring USA commitment to Taiwan".

Mr Trump in March signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which will allow more official visits between the U.S. and Taipei.

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