US unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan

The US has sought to avoid provoking Beijing's ire

The US has sought to avoid provoking Beijing's ire Credit BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP Getty Images

After the de-facto USA embassy in Taiwan has operated on its current site in Da'an District for nearly four decades, the AIT's new office complex, which cost US$255 million and took nearly a decade to construct, was finally near completion and opening. However U.S. lawmakers have continued to lobby to support Taiwan, and Washington still sells hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to Taiwan, despite China's objections.

Among other officials attending the ceremony was Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, whose independence-leaning administration Beijing has sought to isolate diplomatically and threatens with invasion.

The American Institute in Taiwan, built over nine years at a cost of about $250 million, is bankrolled by the US government and staffed by diplomats, effectively making the complex an embassy all but in name.

Taiwanese politicians, however, hope that more senior US officials such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or national security adviser John Bolton may visit the island this autumn.

Also in attendance were Rep. Gregg Harper and Marie Royce, the US assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

The AIT said Royce will "also hold discussions with". Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Tuesday that Beijing has lodged a protest with the USA over the ceremony. Trump has previously vowed to honor Beijing's One China policy, but Washington's recent attempts to cozy up to Taiwan have undermined Beijing's confidence in his pledge. That includes a bill encouraging visits between USA and Taiwanese officials at all levels, unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law this year.

In remarks at the ceremony, AIT Director Kin W Moy called the new building "a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan". "The new office complex is a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership in the 21st century".

"We urge the US to honor the commitments it has made to the Chinese side on the Taiwan issue and correct its wrong actions", Geng added Tuesday, "thus avoiding undermining China-US ties and cross-straits peace and stability". China also has recently pointedly conducted several military drills in the Taiwan strait and around the island. "High-level visits can be arranged at any time, not just when AIT inaugurates a new building", Templeman told the Guardian.

The opening of the new facility angered Beijing.

Still, the United States has not sold F-35 fighter jets, as requested by Taipei, offered actual submarines or docked a naval vessel in Taiwan despite talk in Washington.

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