Taiwan: United States opens de facto embassy in capital Taipei, angers China

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While Taiwan's relationship with the United States is essential to its security, it must also guard against provoking China, its biggest military threat but also the dominant market for the island's export-driven economy.

The US switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979 but maintains economic, political and security ties with Taiwan, according to AFP.

And AIT Director Kin Moy, for one, said Tuesday he eagerly welcomes this "testament to this friendship, to the US commitment to Taiwan, and to our staying power in Taiwan".

Journalists tour the new office complex of the American Institute in Taiwan during a dedication ceremony in Taipei
Journalists tour the new office complex of the American Institute in Taiwan during a dedication ceremony in Taipei

The recently completed American Institute in Taiwan office in a suburb of the capital Taipei will house USA representatives and serves American interests in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Marie Royce are expected to speak at today's event, the AIT said.

The American Institute in Taiwan's new building, located on a leafy hillside in the Taipei suburb of Neihu, will be opened by its director Kin Moy, who in the absence of official ties between the US and Taiwan is the de facto American ambassador to the self-governing island.

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A smiling Tsai said the new building was a symbol of "more promising" relations between Washington and Taipei. Beijing has been more hostile since Tsai was elected Taiwan's president in 2016 because she refuses to recognise the "one China" policy. That includes a bill encouraging visits between USA and Taiwanese officials at all levels, unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law this year.

And last month, the White House accused China of "Orwellian nonsense" for demanding that worldwide airlines refer to Taiwan as a part of China on their websites.

Taiwan's foreign ministry noted that before assuming her post, Royce had visited the island with her husband, US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a number of times. "China's pressure on Taiwan is inciting a backlash from the public here". "The great story of Taiwan-U.S. relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building".

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Still, the United States has not sold F-35 fighter jets, as requested by Taipei, offered actual submarines or docked a naval vessel in Taiwan despite talk in Washington.

The complex's opening marks the strengthening of diplomatic ties between Washington and Taiwan. "We must draw a red line for the U.S. and Taiwan", Global Times said through the editorial. "China needs to make early preparation", the tabloid said.

"Hence a few moves to loosen the previous self-limitations by Washington in its relationship with Taiwan", said Roy.

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