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US official joins Taiwan’s president in marking controversial anniversary

Brent Christensen, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, talks to soldiers after attending an event to mark the 62nd anniversary of Taiwan’s last major battle with China, in Kinmen, Taiwan, on August 23, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The United States’ top representative in Taiwan has for the first time joined the self-ruled island’s leader in a controversial ceremony commemorating the anniversary of Taiwan’s last major battle with China.

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen laid a wreath and bowed her head in respect at a memorial park on Kinmen Island on Sunday, marking the 62nd anniversary of the battle.

Brent Christensen, the head of the American Institute in Taiwan and considered the United States’ de facto ambassador, offered his respects, too, standing behind Tsai.

The institute said Christensen had laid wreaths at a monument honoring two US military officers who allegedly died in a 1954 Chinese attack on Kinmen.

Taiwan’s presidential office thanked Christensen for his participation.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, recognizing Chinese sovereignty over the self-ruled island. But it has been courting Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.

Earlier in August, a top US cabinet official visited Tawian, also marking a first time that such a high-level visit was taking place.

China has pursued Taiwan’s reunification ever since the island broke away from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

China firmly opposes any official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan.

Relations between the United States and China have hit the lowest level in decades under Trump. The two countries are at loggerheads over a range of issues, including trade, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.

The US has been significantly ratcheting up tensions with China in all of those cases.

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