The Trump administration has sent its Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce to Taiwan for a four-day visit that includes Tuesday’s dedication of the new office of Washington’s de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry noted that before assuming her post, Royce had visited the island with her husband, US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a number of times.
US Representative Gregg Harper, a co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, will also attend the dedication ceremony.
Harper has helped push pro-Taiwan proposals, notably the Taiwan Travel Act, through the US Congress, and signed a petition to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom demanding that Taiwan be allowed to participate as an observer in this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has been aiming to take advantage of the dedication and the visit by senior US officials to push for further liberalization of arms sales, technological transfers, as well as possible port calls by US warships.
Taiwan papers have also reported that former AIT deputy director Brent Christensen would be promoted to lead Washington’s diplomatic mission on the island. Incumbent AIT director Kin Moy is expected to leave Taipei following the dedication of the new compound.
A career member of the US Foreign Service, Christensen also served at the US embassy in Beijing and was last posted in Taiwan during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s second term and maintained cordial relations with Taiwan’s major parties.
The White House is cautious about its Taiwan policy in the lead-up to the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, the same day of the dedication of AIT’s new office.
Meanwhile, the Beijing-based Global Times noted on the weekend that China had to be prepared for a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, following the conclusion of the island’s annual anti-Chinese invasion drill, as well as a Reuters report that Washington could be considering sending a US Navy vessel through the strait.
China and the US — currently in heated talks over trade — have frequently sparred over questions of militarization of the South China Sea, where Taiwan also has competing claims to parts or all of the region.
“China and the US are likely to face a new Taiwan Straits crisis sooner or later. China needs to make early preparation,” the tabloid said.