At the lowest point in Sino-American relations, Beijing on Monday threatened to respond firmly to the U.S. decision to lift restrictions on U.S. officials in their official contacts with the island of Taiwan. Beijing accuses Washington of betraying its bilateral commitments in diplomatic relations.
“Any action that undermines China’s fundamental interests will be met with a strong response from China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing on Monday, January 11, urging Pompeo to reverse its decision or face “severe punishment”.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday, less than two weeks before the end of Donald Trump’s term, that Washington would lift the “complex internal restrictions” regulating interactions between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.
“Today I am announcing that I am lifting all these self-imposed restrictions. Executive agencies should consider all “contact directives” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the State Department under the authority delegated to the Secretary of State null and void,” Pompeo said in a January 9 statement.
It is unclear what the change in practice means, with Pompeo saying the U.S. administration’s executive branch communications with Taiwan will be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which serves as the de facto embassy.
The AIT was founded in 1979, when the United States extended diplomatic recognition to mainland China under a landmark agreement that required ending formal recognition of Taiwan.
For his part, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, on the other hand, welcomed the U.S. decision, while expressing his “sincere gratitude” to the U.S. administration.
On Wednesday, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, will arrive in Taipei for a three-day visit, which China has denounced. Wu said he and President Tsai would meet with Craft on Thursday to discuss, among other things, how to promote Taiwan’s international participation.
Beijing says Taiwan is an inviolable part of China to be reclaimed and opposes any diplomatic recognition of the island. The animosity has increased considerably since Tsai Ing-wen won Taiwan’s presidential election in 2016 – she rejects Beijing’s insistence on the One China principle.
Although the U.S., like most countries, has no official ties with Taiwan, under President Donald Trump it has stepped up arms sales and sent senior officials to Taipei.
Washington remains an ally of Taipei and is required by Congress to sell arms to Taipei. He opposes any moves to change Taiwan’s current status. Military tensions between mainland China and Taiwan have intensified over the past year – reaching their peak since the mid-1990s, according to some analysts.