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US Ambassador’s trip to Taiwan cancelled after China threatened ‘heavy price’ for visit

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. (Voice of America/Released)
January 15, 2021

Kelly Craft, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, planned to meet with Taiwanese officials in Taiwan between Wednesday and Friday this week, but the State Department announced on Tuesday it would stop all planned travel for the week, days after China had threatened the U.S. would “pay a heavy price” if it followed through with the visit.

China claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory and the U.S. has upheld China’s claim through the One-China Policy. However, President Donald Trump has increasingly exerted pressure on China during his presidency, while simultaneously warming relations with Taiwan.

On Saturday, Pompeo announced the State Department would lift all “self-imposed restrictions” regulating official contacts between U.S. and Taiwanese officials.

The announcement of Craft’s Taiwan travel plans coincided with Pompeo’s new statement on U.S. policy towards Taiwan, but in a statement to the South China Morning Post, a State Department spokeswoman confirmed the plan to cancel all department travel included Craft’s Taiwan visit.

Craft did, however, join on a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.

Craft tweeted, “A great privilege to speak today w/President Tsai @iingwen. We discussed the many ways Taiwan is a model for the world, as demonstrated by its success in fighting COVID-19 and all that Taiwan has to offer in the fields of health, technology & cutting-edge science.

Craft continued, tweeting, “Unfortunately, Taiwan is unable to share those successes in @UN venues, including the World Health Assembly, as a result of PRC obstruction. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that more information, more transparency, is part of the answer.”

“I made clear to President Tsai that the U.S. stands with Taiwan and always will, as friends and partners, standing shoulder to shoulder as pillars of democracy,” Craft added.

Taiwan’s bid for membership in the United Nations has been a particular sticking point in recent years. Tsai pushed for membership in the UN in 2019, and as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, Taiwan repeatedly pressed for access to the UN’s World Health Assembly, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO). China has opposed Taiwan’s inclusion in the UN and in one instance a Hong Kong based reporter faced criticism from the Hong Kong government for asking a WHO representative about whether the organization would consider Taiwan’s membership in an interview segment that went viral.

China has repeatedly warned the U.S. against interactions with Taiwan.

When Keith Krach, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment visited Taiwan in September China flew warplanes over Taiwanese airspace. In October, China also announced sanctions against U.S. arms manufacturers after the U.S. sold their weapons to Taiwan.