US State Department Cancels UN Envoy's Trip to Taiwan

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2021

Hours before he was expected to depart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his final overseas trip amid a torrent of global criticism against President Donald Trump, including by the US allies that Pompeo was expected to meet. Pompeo described the rules as previous administrations' attempts to "unilaterally...appease the communist regime in Beijing".

The extraordinary snub of the US President came days after the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, an unprecedented attack on American democracy that stunned many world leaders and US allies.

Screenshot of Pompeo's decision on interactions with China's Taiwan region. "But because they're coming so late, they're just incremental moves toward nothing in particular".

The State Department cited the transition to the Biden administration in canceling all official travel this week, including Pompeo's trip to Brussels, home to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union headquarters.

"Taken earlier, these measures might have been incremental moves toward a big change - diplomatic recognition of Taiwan", she said.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar at the presidential office in Taipei on August 10, 2020.

This has frequently angered Beijing, which has made its desire to assert sovereignty over Taiwan into a domestic priority under President Xi Jinping. Pompeo also said that going forward, relations between the executive branches of the US government and Taiwan will now be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), adding that this change had already been stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.

The State Department's foreign service manual says that USA government officials may not use their official passports when traveling "to, from, or through" Taiwan because the US does not have official diplomatic relations with Taipei.

"We've stood by our friends in Taiwan", Pompeo said in a January 7 tweet.

Asselborn described Trump as a "political pyromaniac who must be brought before a court" over last week's attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. A wrong move in the Taiwan Strait could spark conflict between two economic, nuclear-armed superpowers, something the Biden administration will need to grapple with.

Outgoing U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday told The Wall Street Journal in an interview the country's trade disputes with Taiwan are not yet resolved, citing "a large and growing trade deficit with Taiwan".

For the next U.S. administration, Nachman believes, the move could pose a challenge, by forcing the incoming secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, to address the issue of Taiwan in the first few weeks of the new administration. "Trump had four years to do it, but he didn't".

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