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US News Faced with the Chinese adversary, Washington turns, cautiously, towards Taiwan

21:16  08 august  2020
21:16  08 august  2020 Source:   bfmtv.com

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Eager to find a counterbalance to the Chinese adversary, the administration of US President Donald Trump is stepping up its support for Taiwan with the announced visit of a senior US official to the island, a cautious initiative on a particularly explosive issue.

US Secretary of Health Alex Azar is expected in Taiwan to hail the island's successes in managing the Covid-19 epidemic, at a time when Donald Trump, in difficulty in the polls in America again plunged into the health crisis, accuses China of being responsible for the pandemic.

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The American Taiwan Institute, which serves as the de facto US embassy in Taipei, has said Mr. Azar would be the highest ranking US official to visit the Taiwanese capital since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979.

But US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo, a hawk who never misses an opportunity to denounce China or claim that Donald Trump is the toughest president in American history, has is showing unusual caution this week about the visit of Mr. Azar, strongly denounced by Beijing.

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"Ministers have visited Taiwan in the past," he said he said Wednesday during a press conference.

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Mr. Azar "will go there to talk about public health issues", including the search for a vaccine against the new coronavirus, he added.

For Douglas Paal, who headed the American Institute in Taiwan during the presidency of George W. Bush, the Trump administration is aware of the risks of escalation on the question of Taiwan, one of the most sensitive for the Party leadership Chinese communist. She refrained from crossing the Beijing red line: a visit to Taipei by US officials in charge of national security issues.

In the 1990s, American foreign trade officials visited Taiwan on several occasions, he recalls. The difference this time is the context: Mr. Azar is going to Taipei at a time when relations with China are at their worst.

"Sending it to Taiwan shows that we respect the system, while challenging China," he said. “The fact that they didn't choose a National Security adviser or someone like that shows that they're trying to get as close as possible to the Chinese red line, but they don't want it. cross."

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- Hardening -

The People's Republic of China considers Taiwan as one of its provinces. The island is ruled by a rival regime which took refuge there after the communists seized power on the mainland in 1949, at the end of the Chinese civil war.

The Trump administration's policy towards China has hardened over the months, to the point that Pompeo recently claimed that 40 years of dialogue with Beijing had failed.

And in recent days, Washington has passed sanctions against eleven Hong Kong leaders, including chief executive Carrie Lam, alongside sweeping measures against China's digital gems TikTok and WeChat.

For Mr. Paal, it is possible that the hawks within the Trump administration will push for even more spectacular initiatives ahead of the presidential election on November 3.

"I see clear signs that the Chinese see this as a possibility and that they are doing everything to avoid getting entangled in this matter," he said.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Taipei, the island's capital, in order to recognize the Beijing-based Communist government as the sole representative of China. They remain, however, with some ambiguity, the island's most powerful ally and its main supplier of arms.

Washington last year approved the sale of more than $ 8 billion of fighter jets to the island.

For Gerrit van der Wees, of George Mason University, Donald Trump initially hesitated to deepen ties with Taiwan, in the midst of trade negotiations with Beijing.

But the recent decisions of the Chinese regime, including the repression in Hong Kong, the mass arrests of Muslim Uyghurs and the activities of the Chinese navy in the South China Sea made him change his mind.

"In this context, the Trump administration is indeed less worried about China's reactions, seeing instead the opportunity to more closely support an island in Taiwan which has built a vibrant democracy and which is a positive force for the world" , he added.

sct / sl / cjc

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