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Pompeo urges US to recognize Taiwan as 'sovereign' country on visit

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)
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answers questions after delivering a speech during his four-day trip to Taipei on Friday, March 4, 2022. (Photo by AP)

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Washington to diplomatically recognize self-ruled Taiwan as "a free and sovereign country”.

In a speech during an unofficial visit to the China-claimed island territory Friday, the hawkish former top diplomat said offering Taiwan diplomatic recognition "can no longer be ignored, avoided or treated as secondary.”

"The United States government should immediately take necessary and long overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing: that is to offer the Republic of China, Taiwan, America's diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country," Pompeo said.

He arrived in the self-ruled island on Wednesday at a time of soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing over the territory as well as the simmering crisis in Ukraine over Russia’s military intervention.

Washington continues to be Chinese Taipei's key ally and leading arms supplier despite recognizing Beijing’s sovereignty over the restive territory.

 Pompeo said the move "isn't about Taiwan's future independence, it's about recognition of an unmistakable, already existing reality", while adding that Beijing's "brutally successful takeover of Hong Kong” had made Chinese President Xi Jinping feel “more powerful”.

The former top US diplomat went on to assert that “taking over Taiwan” was a “necessary mission” meant to “boost Xi's egomaniacal claim of greatness, but indeed to solidify it."

"While the United States should continue to engage with the People's Republic of China as a sovereign government, America's diplomatic recognition of the 23 million freedom-loving Taiwanese people and its legal, democratically-elected government can no longer be ignored, avoided, or treated as secondary," Pompeo added.

Washington ended formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 when it recognized the People's Republic of China, which sees Taiwan as a bone of contention in its ties with the US.

Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory, has warned the US and its allies against crossing its "red line", which it has repeatedly affirmed could trigger war.

Pompeo's latest remarks are seen as a breach of that red line for China.

The remarks came days after Beijing took strong exception to a visit to Taipei by a delegation of former US military officials who were apparently sent by US President Joe Biden.

The delegation, led by the one-time chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, arrived in the self-ruled island Tuesday and met with Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu at Taipei's Songshan airport.

Censuring the visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said “whoever United States sends to show support for Taiwan is bound to fail."

"The will of the Chinese people to defend our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity is immovable," he asserted.

China placed sanctions on "lying and cheating" Pompeo and 27 other top Trump-era officials last year due to his hawkish anti-China positions and repeated criticism of the country, as well as his advocacy of Chinese Taipei’s independence.

China has stepped up its military and diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled territory over the past two years, with an intention to persuade it to accept Beijing's sovereignty.

The country has repeatedly warned Washington against official ties with the island. It says the US contacts with Taipei and the weapon sales to it are in violation of China’s sovereignty.

Under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taipei. 

The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island, but it constantly sells weapons to the island and deploys military vessels to the Taiwan Strait.

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