The diplomatic temperature is rising in Taiwan.
US diplomat visits Taiwan to reassert support
Just days after US President Donald Trump angered the Chinese government by signing legislation boosting relations with Taiwan, a US government official is visiting the self-ruled island and reasserting Washington's support.
At a dinner organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong said the US wished to "strengthen our ties with the Taiwan people and to bolster Taiwan’s ability to defend its democracy," according to the Associated Press. “Our commitment to these goals has never been stronger.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen also attended the event.
She expressed appreciation for Trump's signing of the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages official-level visits between the two sides, and gratitude for his approval of a $1.4 billion arms deal last year.
“The announcement of a major arms sale last year within the first five months of President Trump’s administration showcased the United States’ unwavering commitment to Taiwan’s continued safety and security,” Tsai was quoted as saying.
The US and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations. Instead, they enjoy "a robust unofficial relationship," according to the State Department.
Wong's visit is sure to raise tensions between China and the US over Taiwan, an island that China claims as part of its territory and which it has been trying to isolate both economically and diplomatically.
A widely read Chinese state-run tabloid, Global Times, said on Thursday that Beijing should prepare for military action over the island.
Fan Shih-ping, a political scientist at National Taiwan Normal University, told Inkstone that Wong's visit was a departure from protocol.
“The State Department had sent officials to visit Taiwan before, but they were responsible for trade and commerce,” he said. “This official handles politics, so it is more contentious [than past visits].”
During Wong's time in Taiwan, China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was spotted in the waters of the Taiwan Strait that separates the two sides.
The carrier had been patrolling the East China Sea, near Taiwan, in recent days.
China has already criticized both Wong's visit and the new Taiwan Travel Act, which was signed by Trump last week.
Global Times had quoted analysts as saying China fears the latest visit will pave the way for higher-level meetings between US and Taiwan officials.
Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a nationalistic tone at a major speech in Beijing.
Talking about China's relations with Taiwan, he warned that “any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.”
Taiwan has its own currency, government and military, but China believes the island is part of Chinese soil and does not rule out the possibility of forcefully taking it back someday.