Beijing has long reacted negatively to any efforts by Taipei to normalize or regularize relations with Washington. It has denounced trips to the United States by officials from Taiwan and criticized meetings with American officials. The opposition from Beijing, and the State Department’s complex rules, have ensured that most interactions between the United States and Taiwan take place at a relatively low level.
Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is scheduled to travel to Taiwan this week for a three-day visit aimed at bolstering support for the self-governed island’s expanded participation in international organizations. As cross-strait relations have soured in recent years, China has wielded its growing economic and political clout to chip away at Taiwan’s international status, including by blocking any attempt by the island to join international organizations like the United Nations.
Over the past year, Taiwan has sought to capitalize on its incredible success in controlling the coronavirus to lobby for its participation in the World Health Organization. The island of 23 million people has so far had only 828 cases and seven deaths from the virus, despite its proximity to the mainland.
The Trump administration has taken up the issue as well, and it was prominently highlighted during a trip to the island last August by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, the highest-level American visit to Taiwan in decades. China responded to Mr. Azar’s visit by sending two fighter jets toward Taiwan, part of a more aggressive stance from Beijing over the past year that has seen People’s Liberation Army aircraft fly toward the island almost daily.
China, which vehemently opposes any diplomatic gesture that they see as validating Taiwan’s official status, condemned news of Ms. Craft’s upcoming visit and vowed to retaliate.
At a regularly scheduled press briefing on Friday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, cited Mr. Pompeo in saying that “a few anti-China politicians” in the Trump administration “have put on stage their final madness, unscrupulously using the remaining days in office to sabotage China-U.S. relations and serve their personal political gains.”
Mr. Pompeo’s announcement was welcomed in Taiwan, which has pushed for closer relations with the United States as Beijing’s behavior has grown more aggressive. Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, said on Twitter that he was grateful to Mr. Pompeo for lifting restrictions that were “unnecessarily limiting our engagements these past years.”