The United States of America (USA) has lifted the "self-imposed restrictions" on contacts between American and Taiwanese diplomats and officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced, ending a long-standing policy to "appease" China.
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said, "For several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, service members, and other officials' interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts."
The US has maintained close ties with Taiwan since it split from mainland China in 1949 after the end of a civil war. But until recently Washington has avoided major displays of friendship so as to not antagonise Beijing, which continues to view the self-governing democracy of around 24 million people as an inseparable part of its territory.
Referring to Taiwan as a "reliable" and "unofficial" partner, Pompeo, a staunch critic of China, added that the US executive branch agencies should consider "contact guidelines" regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the State Department to be "null and void." "The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more," he said.
"Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions," the US top diplomat said. The United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception, he said.
"Our two democracies share common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today's statement recognises that the US-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy," Pompeo said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese state media lashed out at Pompeo's latest move. Accusing the US Secretary of "seeking to maliciously inflict a long-lasting scar on China-US ties", a writer for the official Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary on Sunday that the lifting of longstanding restrictions on US government contacts with Taiwanese counterparts proves that Pompeo "is only interested in stoking unwarranted confrontations, and has no interest in world peace." A commentary posted online by CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, called Pompeo's announcement "a cowardly act of sabotage" of the next US administration. "The Trump administration, in its continuing efforts to burn the house down before leaving office, has crossed a dangerous red line with China days before incoming President Joe Biden takes office," the commentary read in part.
There was no immediate comment from the Chinese government on Pompeo's decision to end State Department restrictions on how US officials can interact with Taiwan, which he said had been implemented to appease the Communist regime in Beijing.
Besides, aiwan's Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu thanked Mike Pompeo for lifting the restrictions. "I'm grateful to @SecPompeo & StateDept for lifting restrictions unnecessarily limiting our engagements these past years. I'm also thankful for strong bipartisan support in Congress for the #TaiwanFlag of Taiwan Assurance Act, which advocates a review of prior guidelines," Taiwan's Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu tweeted.
"The closer partnership between #TaiwanFlag of Taiwan & the #USFlag of United States is firmly based on our shared values, common interests & unshakeable belief in freedom & democracy. We'll continue working in the months & years ahead to ensure Taiwan is & continues to be a force for good in the world," he wrote in another tweet.
For the uninitiated, Taiwan is a sensitive issue for China's ruling Communist Party, which considers the self-governing island of 23.6 million people a renegade province that should be brought under its rule.
(With PTI inputs)