News ID: 272548
Published: 0231 GMT August 05, 2020

China: US cabinet visit to Taiwan 'endangering peace’

China: US cabinet visit to Taiwan 'endangering peace’

The United States announced Wednesday its highest-level visit to Taiwan since it switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a move Beijing blasted as a threat to "peace and stability".

The visit, headed by health chief Alex Azar, comes as relations between the world's two biggest powers plunge to historic lows.

"This marks... the first cabinet member to visit in six years, and the highest level visit by a US cabinet official since 1979," said Washington's de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan, with no date yet given for the visit, AFP wrote.

Washington remains the leading arms supplier to the island but has historically been cautious in holding official contacts with it.

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory – vowing to one day seize it – and bristles at any moves by other countries to recognize Taipei.

"China firmly opposes official exchanges between the US and Taiwan," Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said as he called for the visit to be canceled.

"We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle... to avoid seriously endangering Sino-US relations, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

Taiwan said Azar would meet President Tsai Ing-wen.

"(The) timely visit is another testament to the strong Taiwan-US partnership based on our longstanding friendship and shared values," Tsai wrote on Twitter.

Relations have warmed dramatically under President Donald Trump, who has used embracing democratic Taiwan more closely as a way to hit back at Beijing as he clashes with China on a host of issues, including trade and coronavirus.

Shortly after Trump's election win in 2016, Tsai phoned to congratulate him, making him the first president – sitting or newly elected – to speak directly with a Taiwanese leader since 1979.

Trump also signed a bipartisan bill in 2018 upgrading relations and allowing more high-level visits to take place.

In their statements Washington and Taipei painted Azar's visit as linked to Taiwan being a leading example in the battle against the pandemic.

Despite its proximity and close economic ties to China – where the outbreak emerged late last year – Taiwan has fewer than 500 cases and just seven deaths thanks to a tracing and testing regime and a virtual shutdown of its borders.


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