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US sends top-level diplomat to Taiwan, defying China

(US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach will be the latest high-ranking US official to visit Taiwan. Photo: AFP)

TAIPEI, (AFP):- A top US diplomat will arrive in Taiwan on Thursday, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit in 40 years, in a further sign of Washington’s willingness to defy China and its campaign to isolate the self-ruled island.

Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, was heading to Taipei to attend a memorial service for late president Lee Teng-hui on Saturday, the US State Department said.

The trip, the second high-ranking US visit in as many months, is likely to rile China, which baulks at any recognition of Taiwan and has mounted a decades-long policy of marginalising the democratic island.

Relations between the United States and China are at their lowest point in decades, with the two sides clashing over a range of trade, military and security issues, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

“The United States honours President Lee’s legacy by continuing our strong bonds with Taiwan and its vibrant democracy through shared political and economic values,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement announcing Krach’s trip.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Krach, accompanied by assistant secretary Robert Destro, would also discuss “how to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation” during his three-day visit.

It described him as the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei.

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