Trump approves official travel to Taiwan

Friday, March 16, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — President Donald Trump signed off Friday on new rules allowing top level US officials to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taipei counterparts, a move that will anger Beijing.

The White House said Trump had signed the "Taiwan Travel Act," which "encourages visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels."

US representatives can already travel to democratic Taiwan and Taiwanese officials occasionally visit the White House, but meetings are usually low profile to avoid offending China.

Washington cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 in favor of Beijing. But it maintains trade relations with the island and sells it weapons, angering China.

China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has long stated its desire for reunification.

The new law describes Taiwan as "a beacon of democracy" in Asia, and states that "Taiwan's democratic achievements inspire many countries and people in the region."

Senator Jim Inhofe welcomed the move, saying high-level meetings "remain extremely valuable, especially as China continues their unprecedented reclamation in the South China Sea."

He described the legislation as "an important tool as we continue to ensure Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and remains a committed US partner in the region."

Trump's signature, announced late on Friday -- when the White House usually tries to bury news -- comes amid increasing tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island.

Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei because President Tsai Ing-wen refuses to acknowledge the democratic island as part of "one China".

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