US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gestures to a reporter as he talked about vote counting in the US election at a briefing on November 10, 2020 at the State Department in Washington DC.
Jacquelyn Martin | AFP | Getty Images
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that he is lifting restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts, a move that is likely to anger China and heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington in the final days of President Donald Trump’s presidency.
China claims democratically and separately ruled Taiwan as its own territory, regularly describing Taiwan as the most sensitive topic in its ties to the United States.
While the United States, like most countries, has no official relations with Taiwan, the Trump administration has stepped up support for the island country, with arms sales and laws to help Taiwan cope with China’s pressure.
In a statement, Pompeo said the State Department had for decades placed complex internal restrictions on the interactions with Taiwanese counterparts by US diplomats, service workers and other officials.
“The United States government has taken these actions unilaterally in an effort to appease the communist regime in Beijing,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Today I announce that I am lifting all these self-imposed restrictions,” he added.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, will visit Taiwan next week for meetings with senior Taiwanese leaders, prompting China to warn Thursday that they were playing with fire.
Chinese fighter jets approached the island in August and September during the last two visits: by US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and US Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach, respectively.
The United States is Taiwan’s strongest international lender and arms supplier, and is obliged to provide the country with the means to defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
“Today’s statement recognizes that the relationship between the US and Taiwan need not be and should not be shackled by self-imposed constraints of our permanent bureaucracy,” Pompeo said.