In the home stretch of the Donald Trump administration, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the end of restrictions on contacts between US and Taiwanese authorities, a move that is expected to irritate the Chinese while complicating relations with Beijing in the start of Democrat Joe Biden’s term.
In a statement, Pompeo said that for many decades the department had created complex internal restrictions on interactions of U.S. diplomats and other officials with their Taiwanese counterparts.
“The US government has taken these steps unilaterally in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing,” the text said. “Today, I am announcing that I am removing these self-imposed restrictions.”
Pompeo concludes by saying that Saturday’s statement “recognizes that the US-Taiwan relationship does not need and should not be bound by restrictions on our permanent bureaucracy.”
The announcement appears to be part of efforts by the Secretary of State and the Trump administration to take a tough approach on China before Biden takes office on January 20.
Bonnie Glaser, an expert on Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the restrictions Pompeo cited include banning Taiwanese officials from entering the U.S. State Department, resulting in meetings being held in the U.S. hotels.
“Biden’s management certainly won’t be happy that such a move was made in the dying days of the Trump administration,” Glaser said.
A person linked to the Democratic Transition Team said that once in office, Biden will continue to support a peaceful resolution of the Beijing and Taipei issues that is in line with the wishes and interests of the Taiwanese.
On the other hand, the Taiwanese Office for Economic and Cultural Representation in the United States, which functions as an unofficial embassy to the country, welcomed the announcement and said the decision showed “the strength and depth” of the country’s relations. Washington with Taipei.
“Decades of discrimination, removed. A beautiful day in our bilateral relations. I will cherish every opportunity,” wrote Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Washington.
A senior island government official close to Taiwan’s security plan told Reuters news agency, on condition of anonymity, that it was the US’s biggest adjustment to its Taipei-related policies in recent years. years, stressing that the two American sides have always strongly supported relations between the countries.
China claims the island as part of its territory and often describes the situation as the most sensitive issue in its dealings with the Americans. Although the United States, like most countries, does not have official relations with Taiwan, the Trump administration has increased its support for the island, with arms sales and laws to help Taipei do so. in the face of pressure from Beijing.
Taiwan has been at the center of the increasingly tough stance on China that Pompeo took during his tenure as secretary of state – going so far as to say that Beijing is the main long-term threat to states -United.
In November, he questioned the “one China policy” adopted by the United States, saying in a radio interview that Taiwan was not part of China. Beijing reacted and warned that the behavior was undermining “China’s central interests” and interfering in the country’s internal affairs and “would face a resolute counterattack.”
Another step that is hampering relations with Beijing is the visit of the third US official to the island in recent months. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft will travel to Taiwan next week for meetings with island leaders, prompting China to warn Thursday that the United States is playing with fire.
In the second half of last year, Washington sent two more senior officials to the island. At the time, the Chinese responded with military threats in Taipei, sending confronting planes and ships across the strait.
This has increased the military tension already evident in the South China Sea, which Beijing says is 85% its own, which the Americans consider illegal. If there is a risk of accidental confrontation between Chinese and Americans or allies, in the strait the question is even more serious. There has been a sharp increase in military activity in the region over the past year, which has posed practical challenges for the Taiwanese.
According to the Defense Ministry published in September 2020, the country had already spent 1 billion US dollars (5.6 billion reais) in the year just to mobilize fighter jets to intercept Chinese planes near its space. air.
Taiwan makes a living from its high-tech industry and has made many military purchases from the Americans. From 2017 to date, US $ 15 billion (R $ 84 billion) has been spent, slightly more than the total spent in the decade preceding this period.
The United States is Taipei’s largest arms supplier, which enjoys American support in the event of an attack, although most military analysts consider the hypothesis remote in practice.
Aid is implicit in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. It was an instrument of the Jimmy Carter government that sought to appease Congress’ negative reaction to establishing diplomatic relations with China.
Negotiated since the beginning of this decade, the recognition of Communist China has meant throwing Taiwan into diplomatic limbo. Thus, the United States implicitly admitted Beijing’s policy of seeing everything as one nation, but also provided military protection and armaments to the island.
Tawian’s defense budget for 2021 has increased 10% to a record $ 15 billion, still a fraction (less than 10%) of what China spends. The United States is the clear leader in the world, leaving Beijing in second place, spending almost four times the amount.