Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 17 September 2020


U.S. Envoy to Land in Taiwan Amid Uptick in Chinese Military Activities

  • State Department’s Krach to attend ex-president’s memorial
  • China has urged U.S. to halt official exchanges with Taipei

One of the U.S. State Department’s most senior officials is scheduled to land in Taipei on Thursday amid increased tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, including a sustained series of Chinese military activities close to the island.

Keith Krach, the department’s undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment, will be the second senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in the past two months after an August trip by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. China has protested the visit, urging Washington to break off all official exchanges with Taipei to avoid seriously damaging China-U.S. relations.

Krach’s visit comes at a fraught time in the relationship between the world’s two largest economies on fronts ranging from Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong to trade and technology. Less than 24 hours before his arrival, two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Wednesday night, Taipei’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.

Keith Krach Photographer: Heo Ran/AFP via Getty Images

The move came after China’s military sparked concern last week by sending more than 20 aircraft into the zone for two days in a row. The U.S., meanwhile, is planning to sell Taiwan up to seven major weapons systems -- including mines and cruise missiles -- Reuters reported Wednesday, a move that piles pressure on President Xi Jinping.

Ahead of the trip, local media, including Central News Agency, reported that Krach had initially intended to discuss greater economic cooperation with the government of President Tsai Ing-wen. But the State Department’s formal announcement of the visit made no mention of economic talks, saying only that he would travel to Taiwan to attend a Saturday memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui.

While Krach’s visit to Taipei has been presented as the latest signal of more vocal U.S. support for Taiwan in the face of ongoing military and diplomatic pressure from China, there are indications of U.S. displeasure with the island.

Taiwan has been caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and China, coming under pressure to choose sides in their escalating battle for global influence. China this week accused the U.S. of economic bullying over the proposed forced sale of the Chinese-owned TikTok app to a U.S. company on national security grounds.

The U.S. has requested that Taiwanese hardware suppliers -- such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. -- restrict sales of cutting-edge technology to China’s Huawei Technologies Co. It also dismissed a ruling by the World Trade Organization that it had violated international regulations by imposing tariffs on more than $234 billion of Chinese exports.

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