U.S. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo on Saturday rolled back all restrictions imposed over the years on U.S. officials in their contacts with Taiwan, which welcomed the move.
“The State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate the interactions of our diplomats, military personnel and other official representatives in their relations with their Taiwanese counterparts,” the secretary of state said in a statement.
“The United States had taken these measures unilaterally, to satisfy the communist regime in Beijing. It’s over, ”he added.
He did not specify the nature of the restrictions and the announcement appears largely symbolic, with a 2018 law already authorizing “officials at all levels of government, including cabinet members in national security functions, the military and other government officials to travel to Taiwan and meet with their Taiwanese counterparts ”.
Taiwan’s Ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, welcomed the decision. “It’s the end of decades of discrimination,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is a very big day for our bilateral relationship. I look forward to every opportunity, ”he adds.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also welcomed the lifting of “restrictions that unnecessarily limited our relations.”
“The close partnership between Taiwan and the United States is solidly based on our common values and interests and the unwavering faith in freedom and democracy,” he added.
The announcement by Mr. Pompeo, less than two weeks before the end of President Donald Trump’s mandate, should, on the other hand, provoke the fury of Beijing, which considers Taiwan as an integral part of China and which has already violently protested against a visit. announced in Taiwan by the United States’ ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft.
Ms. Craft is due to travel to Taipei from January 13 to 15 for talks with Taiwanese officials. She is also due to deliver a speech there on “the impressive contributions (of Taiwan) to the world community and the importance of Taiwan’s significant and broad participation in international organizations,” according to the State Department.
China, which still considers the island territory as part of China and considers that any trip to Taipei by foreign leaders is likely to give legitimacy to the Taiwanese authorities, has threatened to make the United States pay “a heavy price” if this trip takes place.
“Not an exception”
Last year, the outgoing administration of Donald Trump had already sent officials to Taiwan amid heated disputes between the United States and China in the areas of trade, security and human rights.
Under the presidency of Donald Trump, Washington and Taipei have moved closer, the US president approving in particular arms sales to Taiwan for an amount estimated at around 18 billion dollars.
Conversely, Sino-US relations have continued to deteriorate.
Mr. Pompeo does not go so far as to want to completely normalize relations with Taiwan, a decision over which he has no authority anyway. He indicates that relations with the island will continue to pass through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a private organization which acts as the United States’ embassy in Taipei.
But the US government “maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception,” he concludes.
Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to recognize Beijing, but the United States passed a law that same year that said it must help Taiwan defend itself in the event of conflict.
Since then, Washington has remained the island’s most powerful ally and its number one arms supplier.
Taiwan, which enjoys a democratic system, lives under the constant threat of China which considers this territory as a rebel province called upon to one day return to its fold, and by force if necessary.