Senior US official, lawmaker in Taiwan for office dedication

The new facility for the American Institute in Taiwan, US’s de facto embassy in Taiwan has a cost of US$ 250 million and will open formally later this year

The United States has opened a new state-of-the-art facility in Taiwan that serves as Washington's de facto embassy in the self-ruled island that Beijing claims is part of its territory.

While Taiwan's relationship with the U.S. is essential to its security, it must also guard against provoking China, its biggest military threat but also the dominant market for the island's export-driven economy.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, several Taiwanese government officials as well as legislators were also present. The just-completed American Institute in Taiwan office in a suburb of the capital Taipei functions as Washington's de facto embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic relations.

Also in attendance were Rep. Gregg Harper and Marie Royce, the USA assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

Taiwanese politicians, however, hope that more senior US officials such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or national security adviser John Bolton may visit the island this autumn. "The great story of Taiwan-US relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing was "gravely concerned" with the inauguration of the building.

"I must point out that the US, by sending officials to Taiwan under whatever pretext, severely violates the one-China principle and three China-US joint communiques, interferes in China's internal affairs and exerts negative impact on China-US relations", Geng said during a news conference.

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Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the Department of State, said in a congratulatory message to the AIT that through the AIT, the US and Taiwan share values and enjoy close cooperation on a wide range of regional and global issues. Beijing has been more hostile since Tsai was elected Taiwan's president in 2016 because she refuses to recognise the "one China" policy.

However, Templeman suggested the ceremony should not be interpreted as revealing the Trump administration's Taiwan policy in general.

In March, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act that encourages high-level visits between the two sides.

The complex's opening marks the strengthening of diplomatic ties between Washington and Taiwan.

Harper and his wife, Sidney, arrived on Sunday to attend today's dedication ceremony of the new office complex in Taipei's Neihu District (內湖).

The US is embroiled in a major trade row with China, but is keen to avoid a diplomatic fallout as it needs Beijing's help to solve the North Korea nuclear issue.

Still, the United States has not sold F-35 fighter jets, as requested by Taipei, offered actual submarines or docked a naval vessel in Taiwan despite talk in Washington.

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