U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has removed long-standing restrictions on diplomatic and military contacts with Taiwan to “appease” China.
“The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing,” Pompeo said Saturday, less than two weeks before the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, in a statement. “Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions.”
High-ranking U.S. civilian officials and military officers can now travel to the self-governed island, which China considers part of its territory.
Executive branch agencies have been asked to treat the “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State as “null and void.”
The United States does not have official relations with Taiwan, but President Donald Trump has helped Taiwan with arms sales and political support as the island seeks to deal with constant pressure from Beijing.
The U.S. maintains its unofficial ties with the island as per the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which authorizes Washington to provide Taiwan with military equipment for its self-defense, and set up a nonprofit corporation, with the American Institute in Taiwan acting as the de-facto U.S. embassy there.
“The United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception,” Pompeo said in the statement. “Our two democracies share common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today’s statement recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.”
“Decades of discrimination, removed,” Hsiao Bi-khim, who serves as Taiwan’s representative in the United States, tweeted after Pompeo’s announcement. “A huge day in our bilateral relationship. I will cherish every opportunity.”
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, appointed by President Trump in 2019, is scheduled to visit Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei from Wednesday to Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Pompeo announced Craft’s trip on Thursday, saying it is to show “what a free China could achieve.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded to Craft’s planned visit.
“[A] handful of anti-China politicians within the Trump administration, to be clear, such as Pompeo, have been staging a show of madness as their days at the reins are numbered, stopping at nothing to deliberately sabotage China-U.S. relations for selfish political interests,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying at a daily briefing Friday. “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests. If the U.S. insists on going its own way, it will definitely pay a heavy price for its erroneous actions.”