US Unveils De Facto Embassy in Taiwan

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The United States unveiled a new US$256 million (S$342 million) representative office in Taiwan yesterday, a de facto embassy that underscores Washington's strategic ties with the democratic, self-ruled island as it faces escalating tensions with China.

US Unveils De Facto Embassy in Taiwan

Washington cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 but remains its strongest ally and sole supplier of foreign arms.

It opened the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) to conduct relations between the two sides after severing ties, The Straits Times reported.

In comments certain to rile China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the new complex was a reaffirmation of both sides commitment to a "vital relationship".

"The friendship between Taiwan and the US has never been more promising. The great story of Taiwan-US relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building," Ms. Tsai said.

So long as both sides stood together, nothing could come between them, she added.

The new complex, a significant upgrade from the low-key military building the AIT had used for decades, will serve as the representative office later this summer, said AIT director Kin Moy.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce said at a ceremony to mark the unveiling that the complex was a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership.

"We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through," said Mrs. Royce, who is the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.

AIT chairman James Moriarty called the new complex a "milestone" in the US-Taiwan relationship and a "testament to the strong US commitment to Taiwan".

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry said they had lodged "stern representations" with Washington about the new building and the visit of the senior US diplomat.

"We urge the United States to scrupulously abide by its promises to China over the Taiwan issue, correct their wrong actions, and avoid damaging China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

The sprawling new site occupies 6.5ha, including Chinese gardens, in Taipei's Neihu district.

AIT's Taipei office has nearly 500 American and local employees, while its Kaohsiung branch has more than 30 staff.

The ceremony was attended by scores of high-ranking Taiwan officials as well as senior business executives, including Mr. Morris Chang, the former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world's biggest maker of contract chips.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan under its "one China" policy and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it sees as a wayward province under its control.

China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since President Tsai was elected in 2016.

Beijing suspects Ms. Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

The Global Times, a widely-read Chinese state-run newspaper, said China should warn Taiwan and the US against any provocation.

"The mainland must continue to build up its deterrence against Taiwanese authorities, making them know that the US cannot be their savior," it said in an editorial on the opening of the new office.

Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies recently, when they switched their recognition to China, while some international companies have changed their websites to show the island's designation as being part of China.

China has also stepped up military drills, sending bombers and jet fighters on exercises near the island that Taipei has denounced as intimidation.

Taipei has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster its defenses.

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