The US ambassador to the United Nations will visit Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, in a move that is certain to rile Beijing.
Pompeo announced the trip by Kelly Craft in a statement on Thursday condemning the mass arrests of 53 democracy activists – including former lawmakers and an American lawyer – in Hong Kong.
He said the arrests were an “outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law”. Pompeo said Washington would consider sanctions and other restrictions on those involved in the crackdown.
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Pompeo also said Craft would be the next US official to be sent to Taiwan, which he called “a reliable partner and vibrant democracy that has flourished despite Beijing’s efforts to undermine its great success”.
“Taiwan shows what a free China could achieve,” he added.
The statement did not say when Craft would travel to the self-ruled island. She will be the third senior US official to go to Taiwan after undersecretary of state Keith Krach visited in September and Health and Human Rights Secretary Alex Azar’s trip in August.
Both visits were met with angry protests from Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has repeatedly warned the US against having official exchanges with Taipei.
Craft has been vocal in her support for Taiwan and has lashed out at Beijing over human rights issues. She told a Heritage Foundation seminar in New York last month that Beijing’s human rights abuses stood “in stark contrast to Taiwan, a true force for good in the world”.
Presidential spokesman Xavier Chang noted that support, including for Taipei’s participation in global affairs.
Beijing has blocked Taiwan from becoming a United Nations member, saying it is part of China.
Chang said the planned trip “not only represents the consolidation of the Taiwan Travel Act, but also deepening partnership between the US and Taiwan”, referring to 2018 US legislation that enables high-level visits between the two sides.
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Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou also welcomed Craft’s visit and said details were being negotiated with the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy.
“This is the first Taiwan visit by any incumbent US ambassador to the United Nations, which demonstrates the strong support of the US for Taiwan’s international participation and signals another step to advance the US-Taiwan global partnership,” she said.
Craft’s visit was announced soon after the State Department held a closed-door political and military dialogue with Taiwan on Thursday morning (Taipei time). Among those who took part in the virtual talks was Clarke Cooper, US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, according to a schedule released by the State Department.
Taiwan confirmed the talks, with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu saying they “ended smoothly” and covered political, economic, security and other issues. He would not say who had attended the meeting, which deputy defence minister Chang Guan-chung said was held annually.
The talks ran for about an hour and focused on the regional situation, US-Taiwan military cooperation and arms sales, according to local media reports, citing unnamed sources.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday said Beijing resolutely opposed the talks as they violated the one-China policy and three joint communiques that underpin US-China relations.
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