U.S. unveils new ‘embassy’ in Taiwan amid strained China ties

Blanche Robertson
June 13, 2018

The US has dedicated a new representative office in Taiwan in what officials described as a sign of robust ties with the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has become increasingly marginalised on the worldwide stage with the loss of diplomatic allies who previously recognised the government of the self-ruled island, but have now switched to Beijing. "It interferes with China's internal affairs and negatively impacts China-US relations". Further complicating matters, Trump broke diplomatic protocol after winning the 2016 presidential election by accepting a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai Ing-wen.

The American Institute in Taiwan, built over nine years at a cost of about $250 million, is bankrolled by the USA government and staffed by diplomats, effectively making the complex an embassy all but in name.

Speaking of Royce, Moy said the assistant secretary was a "perfect candidate" for the dedication ceremony as she "reflects about 40 years of educational and cultural cooperation" between Taiwan and the U.S.

Following the beginning performances, including a passionate percussion show and the solemn singing of America's national anthem, the officials on the main stage, one after another, gave their remarks that were heavily centered around promoting the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S.

"Our friendship brings the best out of both our peoples", Royce said. Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Tuesday that Beijing has lodged a protest with the US over the ceremony.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday said it had lodged stern representations with the USA about the new AIT building.

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Apart from keeping to a schedule suggested by fengshui experts hired by the AIT, its employees and staff, led by Moy and his wife, were holding incense and praying for good luck behind a table placed with fruit and flowers as offerings to the gods before the ceremony - a common practice for businesses in Taiwan on special occasions. That includes a bill encouraging visits between US and Taiwanese officials at all levels, unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law this year.

Taiwan also risks being sidelined in Washington if Trump feels satisfied that China has addressed its massive trade surplus with the USA, said retired strategic studies professor Lin Chong-pin.

"China and the U.S. are likely to face a new Taiwan Straits crisis sooner or later".

The widely read Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times on Tuesday said China needed to warn Taiwan and the U.S. against provocation.

"We should all be proud of this milestone, which is a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan", AIT Director Kin W. Moy, the USA ambassador in all but name, said at the dedication ceremony. "High-level visits can be arranged at any time, not just when AIT inaugurates a new building", Templeman told the Guardian. The United States opened AIT shortly after terminating formal ties with Taipei - a diplomatic workaround that has irked Beijing.

Still, the United States has not sold F-35 fighter jets, as requested by Taipei, offered actual submarines or docked a naval vessel in Taiwan despite talk in Washington.

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