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U.S. unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

12 June 2018

Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, was one of the representatives for the U.S. government, with many officials accompanying President Donald Trump for his summit in Singapore with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

According to the Straits Times, Royce was chosen deliberately so as not to inculcate a harsh response from Beijing, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory and strongly opposes any direct political relations between Taipei and other nations.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, several Taiwanese government officials as well as legislators were also present. To officials in the USA and Taiwan, Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Taipei symbolizes the strength of their partnership.

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"The new office complex is a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership in the 21st century". "It's a state-of-the-art facility that will make possible even greater cooperation for many years to come".

As the South China Sea standoff is ongoing and remains unsettled, Sino-American relations also remain at odds.

Trump decided not to send cabinet-level officials to the opening ceremony to avoid further antagonising Beijing amid other tensions over trade and China's claims to much of the South China Sea, sources with ties to the U.S. and Chinese governments told the South China Morning Post earlier this month.

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The widely read Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times on Tuesday said China needed to warn Taiwan and the U.S. against provocation. "We must draw a red line for the USA and Taiwan", Global Times said through the editorial.

Trump in March approved new rules allowing top USA officials to travel to the island.

Kharis Templeman, a social science research associate at Stanford University's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific research center, said that given the delicate nature of the summit in Singapore, the Trump administration may have chosen not to use the occasion to make a strong symbolic statement.

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

U.S. unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions