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US steps up support for Taiwan in defiance of China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This handout picture, taken and released by Taiwan’s “presidential office” on May 20, 2020, shows president Tsai Ing-wen (C) arriving at the office for an inauguration ceremony, in Taipei, Taiwan. (Via AFP)

The United States has stepped up its support for Taiwan in defiance of China, which views the self-ruled island as part of its territory.

Washington on Monday announced the establishment of a new bilateral economic dialog with Taipei in a bid to strengthen their bilateral relations.

The US also said it had declassified six security assurances given to Taiwan under the administration of former US president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. They include statements that the US has not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, nor agreed to prior consultation with Beijing on such sales.

The State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, claimed the latest moves were not a policy shift but were part of a set of “significant adjustments” within Washington’s “One China” policy.

China considers the self-ruled island as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland under the internationally-recognized “One China” policy. Almost all world countries, including the US, recognize that sovereignty.

Under that policy, countries are not allowed to have formal relations with Taiwan.

Speaking at a virtual forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, Stilwell attributed the latest measures to the “increasing threat posed by Beijing to peace and stability” and China’s attempts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically.

“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalize Taiwan,” Stilwell said.

The announcements come amid a widening rift between Washington and Beijing over a litany of political and economic issues.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry thanked the US for the moves, and vowed to continue to strengthen its defense capabilities.

Although Washington has no formal relations with Taipei, it is the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan’s secessionist president.

China said nobody should underestimate its resolve to defend its sovereignty, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling on the US to stop promoting its ties with Taiwan.

Last week, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen unveiled a US-backed maintenance hub for upgraded F-16 fighters, saying the hub marked a milestone in her years-long drive to build up the island’s defense industry.

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