Secretary of State Mike Pompeo points to a reporter as he speaks about the vote count in the US election during a briefing on November 10, 2020 at the State Department in Washington, DC.
Jacquelyn Martin | AFP | Getty Images
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts, which is likely to upset China in the final days of President Donald Trump’s presidency and heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington.
China claims that democratic and separately governed Taiwan is its own territory and regularly describes Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in its relations with the United States.
While the United States, like most countries, has no official relationship with Taiwan, the Trump administration has stepped up support for the island nation, with arms sales and laws designed to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China.
In a statement, Pompeo said the State Department had been creating complex internal restrictions on the interaction of American diplomats, service members and other officials with Taiwanese counterparts for several decades.
“The United States government took these measures unilaterally to appease the communist regime in Beijing,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Today I announce that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions,” he added.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft will visit Taiwan next week to meet with senior Taiwanese leaders and urge China to warn on Thursday that they are playing with fire.
Chinese warplanes approached the island in August and September during the last two visits: US Secretary of Health Alex Azar and US Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment Keith Krach.
The United States is Taiwan’s largest international donor and arms supplier and must help ensure that it has the resources to defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
“Today’s statement recognizes that US-Taiwan relations need not and should not be shackled by self-imposed restrictions on our permanent bureaucracy,” said Pompeo.