US envoy’s ‘last-minute’ Taiwan visit angers China



A top US diplomat’s upcoming trip to Taiwan as Washington ends decades-old curbs on contacts with Taipei has again escalated Sino-American tensions.
Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, is due to arrive in Taipei on Wednesday for a three-day visit.

Her last-minute trip – days before Donald Trump’s presidency ends – has incensed China.

Self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory, has hailed the shift in diplomatic relations.

Ambassador Craft’s visit comes after a year of mounting hostility between Washington and Beijing.

The democratic island of Taiwan has been a major thorn in the deteriorating relationship. Under President Trump the US has established closer ties with Taipei – ramping up arms sales and sending senior officials to the territory despite fierce warnings from China.

Most recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would end the “self-imposed restrictions” on contacts between US and Taiwan officials that were introduced decades ago to “appease” the mainland Chinese government, which lays claim to the island.

At the same time the US has bitterly clashed with Beijing on multiple fronts including trade, human rights and the coronavirus pandemic.

Why is this trip happening now?
The high-profile visit was only announced late last week by Mr Pompeo.

At the end of a statement condemning the mass arrests of democracy advocates in Hong Kong, he also added that Ambassador Craft would visit Taiwan.

It will make her the third senior American official sent to the island since August on a trip that begins just a week before the inauguration of Joe Biden as US president and the end of Mr Trump’s term.

Taiwan was “a reliable partner and vibrant democracy that has flourished despite CCP [Communist Chinese Party] efforts”, Mr Pompeo said in characteristically direct language, adding: “Taiwan shows what a free China could achieve”.
Evan Resnick, an assistant professor at Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, called it a “provocative” last-minute move by Mr Trump’s administration.

It appears designed to “fling mud in China’s eye” and make things “harder for the incoming Biden administration”, he told the BBC.

Such “chaotic, imprudent” steps have been “customary” under Mr Trump, Dr Resnick added, saying the trip would likely bring “even more instability” to Sino-American relations at a time the US should be cooperating with China on issues such as the pandemic and climate crisis.

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