Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement on January 9 and while it was welcomed by Taiwan, the Chinese media blasted the move
The Donald Trump administration has just over a week left in the office but its adventurism in foreign affairs is far from over. On Saturday, January 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a statement that the US was set to remove self-imposed restrictions on how its diplomats and other officials interact with Taiwan — a move that could fuel America’s sour relations with China which refuses to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.
In his statement dated January 9, Pompeo said: “For several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, service members, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts…No more.”
The state secretary’s announcement was the latest in a series of moves made by the outgoing Trump administration to reshape Washington’s relationship with Taiwan. It may be recalled here that weeks before he took office in January 2017, Trump accepted a telephone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and said his support for the “One China” policy was contingent on acquiring better trade deals. He announced arms sales to the island and also sent senior officials there.
Pompeo’s announcement understandably saw contradictory reactions from Taiwan and China. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in a tweet thread responding to Pompeo that he was grateful to the US state secretary for “lifting restrictions unnecessarily limiting our engagements”.
“The closer partnership between Taiwan & the US is firmly based on our shared values, common interests & unshakeable belief in freedom & democracy,” he added.
Chinese media slams move
China was, on the other hand, unhappy with Pompeo’s announcement. The Asian power’s state media slammed the top US diplomat saying he was “seeking to maliciously inflict a long-lasting scar on China-US ties”. A commentary on Xinhua News Agency said the act of withdrawing restrictions on the US government contacts with the Taiwanese counterparts proves that Pompeo “is only interested in stoking unwarranted confrontations, and has no interest in world peace.” It also called the former CIA chief as the “worst US secretary of state”.
CGTN, the English language channel of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said Pompeo’s move was “a cowardly act of sabotage” of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. It also said the Trump administration has continued with its efforts to burn down the house before leaving office and in the process, has crossed a dangerous red line with China days before Biden takes oath.
The experts were yet not ready to arrive at a conclusion on what could be the implications yet. Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, Newark, New Jersey, and an expert on Taiwan and China, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg: “While the implications of the announcement are not yet clear, it seems the intent is to nudge unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relations toward something more akin to official ties.”
Experts have expressed concern that President Trump, who is not happy with the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, could try to make it difficult for his successor’s administration by escalating tension with foes like Iran and China.