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U.S. mulls more mutual official visits to boost ties with Taiwan

ROC Central News Agency

04/02/2021 01:17 PM

Washington, April 1 (CNA) The United States on Thursday reiterated its commitment to deepening ties with Taiwan, saying it will consider opportunities for senior officials' mutual visits that advance bilateral relations.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price made the remarks at a regular news briefing when asked what message the U.S. was sending to China with the U.S. ambassador to Palau's recent visit to Taiwan and whether it represents a continuation of former President Donald Trump's policy of lifting restrictions on U.S. officials traveling to Taiwan.

U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennesey-Niland joined a visiting delegation from the Pacific Island nation of Palau, including Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr., that traveled to Taiwan March 28 to launch a Taiwan-Palau travel bubble.

The visit made Hennessey-Niland the first U.S. ambassador to visit Taiwan in an official capacity since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979.

Taiwan, as a leading democracy, is a critical economic and security partner of the United States, Price said, "and that's why we will continue to engage Taiwan consistent with the longstanding 'one China' policy."

"We will consider, just as we have, opportunities for visits to Washington and Taipei by senior-level authorities that advance our unofficial relationship and enable substantive exchanges on issues of mutual concern," Price added.

Aiming to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties, the Trump administration sent a record number of high-ranking officials to Taiwan, including then Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar who traveled to the island in August 2020, the highest level visit by a U.S. Cabinet official since 1979.

In the following month, then Under Secretary of State Keith Krach became the highest-ranking U.S. State Department official to visit Taiwan since 1979.

On Jan. 9, just 11 days from the transition to the Biden administration, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that the Biden administration is preparing to issue guidelines that would make it easier for U.S. diplomats to meet Taiwanese officials by adopting some of the changes introduced by Trump.

One person familiar with the guidelines said they will focus on encouraging U.S. officials to meet their Taiwanese counterparts rather than imposing limits on contacts. A second person said most of the restrictions on interactions "between US and Taiwanese diplomats ... will disappear", according to the report.

Taiwan's Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi (陳正祺) traveled to Washington in November 2020 for Taiwan-U.S. trade talks.

In February 2020, then Vice President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) made a trip to the United States to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, becoming the highest-ranking official from Taiwan to attend the event since official diplomatic relations were severed in 1979.

(By Stacy Hsu and Evelyn Kao)


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