‘Big thing’: Taiwan welcomes US move on official interactions

Joseph Wu says US move to relax decades-long restrictions boost to island, which China claims as its own.

Taiwan says the US decision to remove restrictions on diplomatic interactions is a 'big thing' [File: Stephen Lam/Reuters]

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Monday that relations with the United States had been elevated to a global partnership after the US moved to lift decades-long restrictions on diplomatic interactions and prepared to send its UN Ambassador to the island.

Wu told reporters in Taipei the decision by outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, just a day after the US announced Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft would visit the island this week, was a “big thing”.

Craft is due to meet Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday, Wu said.

“Taiwan-US relations have been elevated to a global partnership,” he told reporters. “The foreign ministry will not let our guard down and hope to continue to boost the development of Taiwan-US ties.”

The visit and the relaxation of restrictions come less than two weeks before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to formally take office and is likely to fuel anger in China, which views Taiwan as its own territory and has worked to keep the island isolated on the world stage.

Although the US, like most countries, has no official ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to provide it with the means to defend itself and under President Donald Trump has stepped up sales of weapons and equipment and sent senior officials to Taipei in moves that have drawn condemnation from China.

Announcing the move on Saturday, Pompeo said the US government had limited diplomatic interactions “unilaterally” as part of “an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing” and the situation could no longer continue.

Craft will become the most senior US official ever to visit Taiwan when she arrives on the island on Wednesday. Previous high-level visits by US officials have coincided with increased Chinese military activity in the Taiwan Strait.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters