Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday, 9 January 2021


U.S. Ends Restrictions on Diplomats Over Taiwan, Pompeo Says

Updated on 
  • Move likely to inflame tensions around One China policy
  • U.S. diplomat says ‘no more’ appeasement of Communist regime

The U.S. will remove decades-old restrictions on how its diplomats and other officials approach Taiwan, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, a move that’s likely to inflame tensions with Beijing over the One China policy.

“For several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, service members, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts,” Pompeo said in a statement Saturday. “No more.”

Pompeo, a frequent critic of China, said the U.S. government has previously taken its actions regarding Taiwan “in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing.”

Going forward, executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” concerning relations with Taiwan previously issued by State to be null and void, he said. The change comes little more than a week before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

“The U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy,” Pompeo said.

Taiwan’s mission to the U.S. said in a statement that the actions “reflect the strength and depth of our relationship.”

Beijing’s One China policy is an acknowledgment that Taiwan and China are part of the same China, even if they disagree on what that means. China regards it as a bedrock policy.

The Trump administration has pushed back on diplomatic norms from the start. The U.S. president accepted a telephone call from Taiwan’s president in January 2017, weeks before taking office, breaking with decades of protocol, and Donald Trump went on to say that his support for One China was contingent on getting better trade deals.

Saturday’s move came almost a year after the world’s two largest economies signed a trade pact that suggested better times ahead.

Since then, the coronavirus pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China, has seen relations deteriorate. China’s crackdown on Hong Kong under its new National Security Law is another flash point.

Recently, as his administration winds to a close, Trump has launched an initiative to punish companies with close ties to the Chinese military. He issued an executive order in November requiring U.S. investors to pull out of Chinese companies that were deemed a threat to U.S. national security.

Several senior U.S. officials have visited Taiwan over the past year. Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to visit Taiwan Jan. 13-15, the first such visit since Taiwan was excluded from the UN in 1971, where she will meet with senior Taiwan counterparts.

China’s foreign ministry has called Craft’s visit “a breach of the One China principle.” It also on Friday accused Pompeo of “staging a final show of madness” to “sabotage China-U.S. relations.”

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