US unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

AIT Chairman James Moriarty with AIT Director Kin Moy and Vice President Chen Chien-jen

AIT Chairman James Moriarty with AIT Director Kin Moy and Vice President Chen Chien-jen

The US Assistant Secretary of State on Cultural Affairs, Marie Royce, will visit Taiwan's capital Taipei to attend a ceremony opening a new building housing the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), widely acknowledged as the de facto American embassy to Taiwan.

"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 said.

"We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through", said Royce, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.

The event underscores the deepening ties between the current United States administration and Taiwan, as China attempts to cut off Taiwan's diplomatic reach.

The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979 but maintains close economic, political and security ties with Taiwan.

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For instance, he said, in the U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats do not always get along, but "we recently passed the Taiwan Travel Act unanimously".

Tsai has also refused to acknowledge the "1992 consensus" that there is only "one China" and that Taiwan forms part of it. Beijing say the principle forms the basis of any ties between the mainland and Taiwan.

Among officials attending Tuesday's ceremony was Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, whose independence-leaning administration Beijing has sought to isolate diplomatically and threatens with invasion.

Tsai hailed the complex as a new chapter in the "great story of US-Taiwan relations".

It remains unclear whether AIT's new compound will be guarded by active service U.S. Marine Corps soldiers, which are a standard feature among all other U.S. embassies around the world.

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The White House is cautious about its Taiwan policy in the lead-up to the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, the same day of the dedication of AIT's new office. It manages its relations through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

"I offer you this", he said, "a tangible symbol that the United States is here to stay". The Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially known, is also a major purchaser of American-made military hardware and is among the top 10 USA trade partners with $65.3 billion in total two way trade during 2016. In late 2016, the then-president-elect Trump raised eyebrows in Beijing after holding a brief telephone conversation with Tsai, who had repeatedly called Trump to congratulate him on his presidential victory - the first direct communication between the USA and Taiwanese leaders since 1979.

Earlier in the day, Beijing reacted sharply to the inauguration and said the presence of U.S. representatives at the inauguration may pose as an interference in China's internal affairs.

Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster the island's defences. Beijing has cut all contacts with Tsai's government, reduced the number of Chinese tourists visiting the island and upped its military threat with war games and air patrols around the island and by sailing its aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. also agreed to shift its official diplomatic focus to Beijing over Taipei.

"We must draw a red line for the United States and Taiwan".

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