A top US diplomat landed in Taiwan making him the first official high-ranking State Department to fly to the island, as Washington defied China and its drive to isolate Taipei. Under-Secretary of State for Economic Development, Resources and Climate Keith Krach is on a visit to attend a memorial service for late President Lee Teng-hui.
The travel, the second high-ranking U.S. visit in as many months, triggered China’s immediate condemnation, baulking at any acknowledgment of Taiwan and following a decades-long strategy of marginalizing the democratic island. Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territories to be incorporated into the mainland, if possible by coercion.
“China is firmly opposed,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Thursday, adding the trip “encourages Taiwan’s independence separatist forces’ arrogant mentality.” US-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, with both sides clashing on a variety of economic, military and security concerns, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
Under US President Donald Trump, Washington’s expanded outreach to Taiwan has become yet another flashpoint between the two nations. In a statement announcing Krach’s journey, “The United States honours President Lee’s legacy by maintaining our close links to Taiwan and its thriving democracy through common political and economic values,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
During his three-day visit, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Krach, accompanied by assistant secretary Robert Destro, will also be exploring “how to improve bilateral economic cooperation. “Since 1979, when Washington transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, it identified him as the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan.
President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan will hold a dinner on Friday for the US delegation. “We look forward to further meetings and discussions between Taiwan and the US to solidify the basis for more partnerships, including economic cooperation, through the visit of Undersecretary Krach,” she said in a statement in her office.