US Opens New De-Facto Embassy in Taiwan, Angering China

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In remarks at the ceremony, AIT Director Kin W Moy called the new building "a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan". The 6.5-hectare complex is seen as a milestone for the relationship between Taiwan and the USA, which have maintained unofficial relations since the termination of diplomatic ties in 1979.

In an opening address, Assistant US Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, described the sprawling five-story complex, which cost $255 million to build, as much more than mere bricks and mortar. 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.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has been aiming to take advantage of the dedication and the visit by senior USA officials to push for further liberalization of arms sales, technological transfers, as well as possible port calls by U.S. warships.

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China bars Taiwan from membership in the United Nations and many other worldwide organizations and has been luring away the island's remaining diplomatic allies, leaving it with just 18.

As SCMP reported earlier - citing unnamed USA officials - the U.S. is mulling sending warships, including carrier forces, through the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. severed official diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 to uphold Beijing's "One China" policy, which maintains that the breakaway territory is part of the People's Republic and can be reunified by force, if necessary.

Yet, as NPR's Rob Schmitz explains, Washington has been creeping steadily closer to Taiwan under the Trump administration.

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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.

Beijing has also increased the frequency of military exercises in the last few months, including deploying its own aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the Taiwan Strait.

Harper and his wife, Sidney, arrived on Sunday to attend today's dedication ceremony of the new office complex in Taipei's Neihu District (內湖).

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"We urge the US to honor the commitments it has made to the Chinese side on the Taiwan issue and correct its wrong actions", Geng added Tuesday, "thus avoiding undermining China-US ties and cross-straits peace and stability". The United States opened AIT shortly after terminating formal ties with Taipei - a diplomatic workaround that has irked Beijing.

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