In what could be called as a massive blow to China, Taiwan is making arrangements for former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to visit the island later this year.
According to South China Morning Post, Pompeo, known for his strong support of the island during his time as the US secretary of state, had expressed his interest in visiting the island soon after he stepped down in January.
On Monday deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang said "we're working hard on this" in response to questions in the legislature. When further asked whether Pompeo would be able to visit Taiwan this year, Tien said: "Yes."
The announcement comes at a time of escalating tensions between Taiwan and China which has stepped up military intimidation against the island by staging war games nearby and sending warplanes into Taiwan's air defence identification zone.
During an interview with Taiwan's Central News Agency last month, Pompeo said he was looking forward to visiting the island. "It would be wonderful to get the chance to travel there someday. I would truly enjoy that. It would be a real treat," he said, according to South China Morning Post.
On Monday, the former top US diplomat tweeted a photo of him sitting in front of a chessboard and having a bite of dried pineapple given to him by Taiwan's de facto envoy to Washington Hsiao Bi-khim. "As a proponent of freedom, enjoying some Taiwanese dried pineapple. Checkmate," he tweeted. In response, Hsiao tweeted: "Glad that @mikepompeo likes Taiwanese dried pineapples which I have been sharing around town."
In what was called as stooping to a new low, Beijing suspended the import of Taiwan's pineapples at the start of March claiming that they had pest problem, but the move was seen by the island as a new move to ramp up pressure on Taipei and to force the island's president Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leng Democratic Progressive Party, to accept the "one China principle".
During his term in office, Pompeo won support from the Taiwanese public but angered Beijing by supporting the island while in office, and has condemned the mainland for suppressing the island after he stepped down.
The United States last week issued new guidelines that encourage exchanges with Taiwanese counterparts, State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
According to South China Morning Post, the guidelines are a move made to bring Washington into compliance with a law signed by former President Donald Trump.
The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between the US and China over Taiwan.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that Washington has been watching China's aggressive actions against Taiwan very closely and raising concerns about it both publicly and privately.
"We have been clear publicly and privately expressing our concern, our growing concerns about China's aggression towards Taiwan. China is taking increasingly coercive action to undercut democracy in Taiwan," Psaki said during the briefing.
US lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next week that would put additional sanctions on Chinese officials; build closer US relations with Taiwan and place more checks on Beijing's military operations and territorial claims, among other measures intended to counter China and the threat it poses on human rights and maritime security.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing. China has threatened that "Taiwan's independence" means war.
Taiwan returned to the forefront of US-China tensions last weekend when Beijing sent more than two dozen warplanes into the self-governing island's air defence identification zone in a 48-hour period.
( With inputs from ANI )
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