TAIPEI – The United States inaugurated on Tuesday a new de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties with the island, and amid growing tension with China.
The unveiling of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) was attended by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen and Premier William Lai.
“AIT’s new office complex is a testament to the strong U.S. commitment to Taiwan, the close and cooperative ties between our people, and the enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan,” AIT Chairman James Moriarty said in a statement posted on the Institute’s website.
“The friendship between Taiwan and the U.S. has never been more promising,” Tsai said.
The AIT building, spread over 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land, cost around $250 million and will employ more than 500 people and would be protected by US Marines.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and Congressman Gregg Harper also attended the inauguration.
Earlier in the day, China had reacted sharply to the inauguration and said the presence of US representatives at the inauguration may pose as an interference in China’s internal affairs.
“We urge the US to redress its wrong doings and avoid damaging China-US ties, peace and stability,” a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang had said at a press conference, adding they have already filed a formal complaint with the US over its relationship with Taiwan.
China argues that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic and insists countries can only have official diplomatic relations with the Mainland and not Taiwan.
Relations between the two countries have been strained after Tsai’s pro-democracy government came to power in 2016.
Apart from its strategy of economic isolation of the Island, Beijing also recently poached three of Taipei’s diplomatic allies: Panama, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic.