Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

Lawrence Chung
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Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect relations between the sides, which are at their strongest in decades, Taipei said on Saturday.

Once the necessary formalities have been completed, the agency formerly known as the Coordination Council for North American Affairs will be called the Taiwan Council for US Affairs, the island’s foreign ministry said.

“The new name better reflects the [agency’s] role in coordinating US-Taiwan affairs. It also symbolises the close and amicable relations between Taiwan and the United States,” it said.

Observers said the name change was significant as it appeared to drop the pretence that the council was non-diplomatic or political in nature.

Although Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing, the two sides retained unofficial relations that have grown ever-closer in recent years, including an increase in military exchanges and cooperation.

“The new name [was made possible] as a result of the consensus between Taiwan and the US,” the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post. “This is the first time the designations ‘Taiwan and the US’ have been used to refer to each other’s affairs office on an equal basis, signifying the firm and close relationship.”

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Taiwan had been forced to use the old title because of the “special historical background” related to the change in diplomatic allegiance 40 years ago, Tsai said.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, has demanded that Washington observe the one-China policy by not officially recognising Taiwan or allowing it to use either “Republic of China” – the island’s official name – or “Taiwan” in the title of its representative offices in the US.

Washington also enacted the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 to prescribes relations with the island and includes a commitment to supply it with arms to protect itself.

“After continuous efforts and coordination by the two sides, and in 2019, the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, our office handling relations with the US is finally able to change its name,” Tsai said.

Presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the name change was due mainly to an improvement in relations between Taiwan and the US as a result of a greater cooperation on the promotion of regional peace and the Indo-Pacific security agenda.

“In the past few years, the US government has given Taiwan strong and firm support in terms of national security and participation in international events, as well as support from Congress and think tanks,” he said, referring to bills signed by US President Donald Trump that allow for exchanges between high-level officials and military personnel, and the approval of new sales of arms and logistical support to the island.

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Also, last week, Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington for the first talks of their kind since 1979, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Saturday.

Last month, the American Institute in Taiwan – the United States’ unofficial embassy in Taipei – relocated to a significantly larger, purpose-built compound, in yet another sign of improving relations.

US support for Taiwan has increased under Trump’s leadership as he regards Beijing as a hostile competitor, not only on trade, but also in military and global influence terms.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have flared since Tsai became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. The mainland subsequently halted all official exchanges with the island and embarked on a campaign to squeeze its diplomatic allies around the world.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

This article Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’ first appeared on South China Morning Post

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