US Upgrades De Facto Embassy in Taiwan, Despite Beijing's Objection


China has lodged a protest with the U.S. following the official opening of Washington's new de facto embassy in Taiwan, a self-ruled island off China's southeastern coast that Beijing considers a renegade province.

And AIT Director Kin Moy, for one, said Tuesday he eagerly welcomes this "testament to this friendship, to the US commitment to Taiwan, and to our staying power in Taiwan".

To officials in the US and Taiwan, Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Taipei symbolizes the strength of their partnership.

"We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through", Royce said, according to Reuters.

The opening of the new institute compound coincides with heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait in recent months, as mainland China ramps up the pressure on Taipei and has staged several military drills in the island's vicinity, SCMP notes. The US switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979 but maintains close economic, political and security ties with Taiwan. Since the USA established diplomatic ties with China almost four decades ago, Washington has acknowledged that claim and cut ties with Taiwan - formally, at least.

"We urge the United States to honor its pledges made to China on the Taiwan issue, correct its wrong practices to avoid damaging China-U.S. relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait", said Geng.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the new complex reaffirmed the "vital relationship" between Washington and Taipei.

"The friendship between Taiwan and the USA has never been more promising", Tsai said.

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The sprawling new site occupies 6.5 hectares, including Chinese gardens, in Taipei's Neihu district.

The White House is cautious about its Taiwan policy in the lead-up to the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, the same day of the dedication of AIT's new office.

"It is the leadership there that makes a difference, not protocols", Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute in London, said of the new AIT building. The United States opened AIT shortly after terminating formal ties with Taipei - a diplomatic workaround that has irked Beijing.

In December 2016, then President-elect Trump accepted a precedence-shattering phone call from Tsai to congratulate him on his election victory, marking the highest-level contact between the two sides in nearly 40 years.

On Monday night, China's state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial, suggesting Beijing should warn the USA and Taiwan of possible consequences for any provocative move.

Despite condemnations from China, the USA continues to sell advanced weapons to the island under the Taiwan Relations Act for its self-defense against a much bigger Chinese military. In March Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, a non-binding bill that encourages senior officials from both countries to visit one another.

China has also stepped up military exercises and air patrols close to Taiwan.

"It's been said before that Taiwan is being used as a bargaining chip, and so far we can not rule that out", Lin said.