US cancels UN envoy’s trip to Taiwan, citing Biden transition

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WASHINGTON: The United States’ UN ambassador Kelly Craft has scrapped a planned trip to Taiwan due to start on Wednesday (Jan 13), a US official said, in line with the State Department cancelling trips abroad ahead of Joe Biden’s auguration.

Craft had been due to visit Taiwan from Wednesday to Friday, prompting China to warn that Washington was playing with fire.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that all travel this week had been cancelled, including his own trip to Europe, as part of the transition to the incoming Biden administration.

But European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter said Luxembourg’s foreign minister and top European Union officials had declined to meet with him during his planned European trip this week.

Craft’s Taiwan trip appeared to be another part of an effort by Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s Republican administration to lock in a tough approach to China before Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan 20.

READ: Taiwan says relations with US elevated to ‘global partnership’

China had said it was firmly opposed to the visit. A representative of China’s mission to the United Nations in New York urged Washington to stop “creating obstacles” for the relationship between China and the United States.

“It’s time that the crazy, irrational behaviors of certain people come to a stop,” the Chinese representative said.

China’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the cancellation.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it “understood and respected” the decision by the US State Department to cancel Craft’s visit.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs regrets that the US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft cannot lead a delegation to visit Taiwan from Jan 13 to Jan 15 as scheduled, but welcomes Ambassador Craft to visit at an appropriate time in the future,” it said in a statement.

Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as its own territory, has been angered by stepped-up support for Taiwan from the Trump administration, including trips to Taipei by top US officials, further straining Sino-US ties.

READ: Chinese state media blast latest Pompeo move on Taiwan

Pompeo on Saturday said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.

Chinese fighter jets approached the island in August and September during the last two visits – by US ecretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach, respectively.

While the United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s strongest international backer and arms supplier, being obliged to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

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