TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan said Friday it welcomed the upcoming visit of a U.S. ambassador to the island in the final week of the Trump presidency in a move that China has already strongly warned against.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft will visit Taipei, the island’s capital, between Jan. 13-15, a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Thursday the visit would “reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space.”
A spokesman for Taiwan’s Presidential Office said Friday they “sincerely welcome” the visit and that final discussions about the trip were still underway.
The trip is a “symbol of the solid friendship between Taiwan and the U.S, and will positively help and deepen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership,” the spokesman said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo initially announced the trip on Thursday that he was sending Craft to show “what a free China could achieve.”
It is yet another move from the Trump administration to step up its official interactions with the island. The U.S. outreach to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Craft was appointed by President Donald Trump to the position in 2019.
Under the Trump administration, senior sitting government officials have stepped up visits to the island. In August, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited the island and U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach visited the following month.
Both times, China flew fighter jets in a display of force towards the island.
The U.S. does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but has been a major source of unofficial support politically and a major source of defense weaponry sales.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan to be part of its national territory.
“We wish to remind the United States that whoever plays with fire will burn himself,” a spokesman for China’s mission at the United Nations warned . “The United States will pay a heavy price for its wrong action.”
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.