The US envoy to Taiwan participated in a military memorial service on Sunday led by President Tsai Ing-wen in a new display of warm relations that threaten to exacerbate tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Neither the director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) William Brent Christensen, nor Tsai spoke at the annual event for soldiers killed by the 1958 Chinese bombing on Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast. continental. The attendees, wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus, observed a minute of silence. Military personnel lit incense on the soldiers’ graves.
Washington has no official relations with Taiwan, which separated from the Chinese government in 1949 after a civil war. The administration of President Donald Trump has made gestures toward Taiwan as relations with Beijing deteriorate. This month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan, sparking a protest from China.
Despite the lack of official ties, the United States is Taiwan’s largest ally and arms supplier. The AIT is a not-for-profit corporation rather than an embassy, but it has employees from the State Department.
It is the first appearance of an AIT director participating in the annual memorial. China has not commented on the matter.
Christensen has attended other events with Tsai, but on Sunday she had an unusually high profile. Some local television channels broadcast the memorial live.
Neither Christensen – who brought an eight-member delegation – nor Tsai testified to reporters. The president, who took office in 2016, did not deliver a speech last year, but spoke to reporters about the events in Hong Kong.
Washington’s support for the democratically elected government of Taiwan has been a chronic irritant in relations with Beijing.