US unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan amid China tensions

President Tsai Ing-wen and Gregg Harper

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday said it had lodged stern representations with the U.S. about the new AIT building.

Commenting on US-Taiwan relations, Harper said that as the caucus co-chair, he would assure people in Taiwan that "in Washington DC, our commitment is as strong or stronger than ever, and will continue that way in the future".

The United States on Tuesday opened a new $256-million (€225-million) representative office in Taiwan's capital, in a move that is likely to increase tensions between the U.S. and China.

"AIT's new home is a tangible symbol that reflects the strength of our ties", said Royce.

Royce is a wife of Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, a politician who has promoted several pro-Taiwan bills, including the Taiwan Travel Act, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports.

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Before she departs on Thursday, Royce will also hold discussions with Taiwan government officials concerning partnerships and exchanges between Taiwan and the USA said the AIT in a statement. AIT's Taipei office has nearly 500 American and local employees, while its Kaohsiung branch has more than 30 staff.

In remarks at the ceremony, AIT Director Kin W Moy called the new building "a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan". "The great story of Taiwan-U.S. relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building", Tsai said.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949 but Beijing views the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

China has also stepped up military drills, sending bombers and jet fighters on exercises near the island that Taipei has denounced as intimidation.

China has been ramping up pressure on Taiwan since the election in 2016, blocking the self-ruled island from participating in global organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and poaching its diplomatic allies.

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