Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the removal of State Department restrictions on meetings with Taiwanese officials, a move that could heighten tensions with Beijing.
In a State Department press release, Pompeo called Taiwan a “vibrant democracy” and a “reliable partner of the United States,” lamenting decades-worth of complex restrictions regulating diplomatic relations. According to Pompeo, the restrictions were in place to “appease the Communist regime in Beijing.”
“Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions,” Pompeo said in a press release. “Executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be null and void.”
Pompeo continued, “Additionally, any and all sections of the Foreign Affairs Manual or Foreign Affairs Handbook that convey authorities or otherwise purport to regulate executive branch engagement with Taiwan via any entity other than the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) are also hereby voided. The executive branch‘s relations with Taiwan are to be handled by the non-profit AIT, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s top representative to the United States, tweeted her support of the decision, noting that the State Deparment’s move squashed “decades of discrimination.”
“A huge day in our bilateral relationship,” she tweeted. “I will cherish every opportunity.”
While the Chinese Communist party has never ruled over Taiwan, concerns that Beijing could move to take control of the island by force have increased in recent years, The Guardian reported.
According to Beijing, Taiwan has strained Chinese and United States relations. For decades, the United States has provided Taiwan with support in an effort to assist the island with resisting Chinese pressure, despite establishing no formal diplomatic ties.
Pompeo addressed these concerns in his statement over the weekend, noting that the United States government maintains unofficial partners globally, and Taiwan should receive similar treatment.
“The United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception,” Pompeo said. “Our two democracies share common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today’s statement recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.”
Last week, Secretary Pompeo tweeted that President Trump’s administration stood with “our friends in Taiwan, adding that $15 billion in arms sales to Taiwan had been authorized over the past three years. Pompeo noted that former-President Obama had authorized $14 billion over 8 years.