China on Monday threatened a “counterstrike” against a move by the United States to lift restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan as military tensions grow between Beijing and the self-ruled island.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday Washington would lift “complex internal restrictions” on contacts with Taipei by diplomats, after a year of mounting US-Chinese friction on topics including human rights, trade and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was not clear what the change means in practice, with Pompeo saying executive branch communications with Taiwan will be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which is owned by the US government and serves as the de facto embassy.
But Washington remains a staunch ally of Taipei and is bound by Congress to sell it weapons for self-defense. It opposes any move to change Taiwan’s current status by force.
“This is a big thing for the elevation of Taiwan-US relations,” Wu told reporters, as quoted by Reuters, expressing his “sincere gratitude” to the US government. “Taiwan-US relations have been elevated to a global partnership. The foreign ministry will not let our guard down and hope to continue to boost the development of Taiwan-US ties.”
Although the United States, like most countries, has no official ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to provide it with the means to defend itself, and under President Donald Trump has ramped up arms sales and sent senior officials to Taipei.
Craft’s visit is highly symbolic, as Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations nor most global bodies because of China’s objections. Beijing says only it has the right to speak for Taiwan on the international stage.