by N. Peter Kramer
The US eased restrictions governing diplomats’ and other officials’ dealings with Taiwan officials, Secretary of State Pompeo said. “Executive branch agencies should consider all ‘contact guidelines’ regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the US Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be null and void”, he said in a statement. Pompeo described the limits as “an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing”.
Taiwan welcomed the move. “The State Department’s actions to further Taiwan-US engagements reflect the strength and depth of or relationship,” Taiwan’s mission to Washington said in a statement. “We look forward to broadening the Taiwan-US partnership in the months and years ahead’. Pompeo’s move will likely sweep away restrictions on Taiwan officials’ entering the State Department and US officials going to the official residence of Taiwan’s representative. Kelly Craft, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, is set to visit Taiwan this week and will highlight the “importance of Taiwan’s meaningful and expanded participation in international organisations”.
In the past, China has loudly criticised any steps to strengthen countries’ ties with Taiwan or Taiwan’s representation in international organisations. But the State Department move does not fundamentally alter the framework of US relations with Taiwan, which are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act. The US and Taiwan do not have official relations, and high-level visits are rare. Although an aide to Pompeo visited Taiwan last year to discuss closer economic and business ties.
An official on the transition team of President-elect Joe Biden said he voted for the Taiwan Relations Act as a senator. “He will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” according to the official. “Biden has long said that American support for Taiwan must remain strong, principled and bi-partisan”.
The move will likely be welcomed by many US lawmakers who have pushed to boost ties with Taiwan. Republican Senator Ted Cruz last year introduced legislation to allow Taiwan diplomats and military service members to display Taiwan flags and wear uniforms while in the US on official business.