US Navy Admiral Michael Studeman visits Taiwan as Administrator Trump consolidates ties before exiting

Sources identified the officer as Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, chief military intelligence officer of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry has said it welcomes such visits, but does not provide details of the trip, “as this route has not been made public.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington has stepped up relations with Taipei, especially over the past 12 months. The Trump administration has allowed billions of dollars on the self-governing island, and in August, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Alex Azar became a senior U.S. official who had been visiting Taiwan for decades.

Improving relations with Taiwan came at a time when the United States was stepping up pressure on China and seeking to build an anti-Beijing alliance in the region, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking the issue hard.

In another move that is sure to outrage China’s leaders, the U.S. also welcomed the exiled Tibetan prime minister to the White House over the weekend, although it did not meet with senior officials.
Beijing is part of the territory of Taiwan, even though it was never under the control of the Communist Party, and the island has been governed separately since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Chinese President Xi has promised to “reunite” Taiwan with the mainland. China, if necessary by force, and in recent months, China’s army has taken increasingly aggressive steps.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Zhao Lijian said on Friday that Beijing “strongly opposes all forms of official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan … in order not to undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and Sino-US cooperation in important areas.” cooperation “.

Zhao spoke in the context of the new economic dialogue before high-level meetings between US and Taiwanese officials. A number of agreements were signed over the weekend on future cooperation in the fields of health, technology and security, although the meeting did not stop at a new trade agreement.

“Our economic partnership with Taiwan – based on a shared commitment to free markets, the rule of law and transparency – will only strengthen,” Cale Brown, a U.S. State Department spokesman, told Twitter.

During a meeting with officials, the U.S. Navy sailed a warship across the Taiwan Strait, the first such transit since the election, which the Navy says “demonstrates U.S. commitment to a free and open Indian-Pacific region.”

While U.S. ships regularly cross the strait, China sees the strategic waterway separating it from Taiwan as a priority area and often shields foreign ships when they cross.

It shapes Biden’s policy

Even as President Trump withdrew much of his public commitment following his election defeat against Biden, Pompeo remained extremely active, touring the world and maintaining pressure on China, which he described as a “central threat” to the United States.
In a speech a week after the election, Pompeo said that facing the “China challenge” means “no more illegal claims in the South China Sea, no more coercion and co-option of US businesses, no more consulates by spies. intellectual property must no longer be stolen and violations of fundamental human rights must not be ignored. And the atrocities of the (Communist) Party will not be tolerated in Xinjiang, Tibet or elsewhere. “
Writing on Twitter Pompeo welcomed the economic meetings between the United States and Taiwan on Saturday, stating that the two governments are “strong partners in protecting freedom, promoting economic relations and promoting our common democratic values.”
Exactly what a Biden presidency will do with China is yet to come – many analysts expect the new administration to maintain a tough line in some areas, while avoiding the fiery rhetoric and post that characterized Trump’s time in office.

During the democratic pre-election in February, Biden referred to Chinese President Xin Qing as a “gangster” and said Beijing had to “play by the rules.” The June Biden campaign ad accused Trump of “playing” China.

The new emphasis on China is evident in the Democratic Party Platform Document, issued in August 2020. During the most recent presidential campaign in 2016, the document made only seven references to China. This year’s version had over 22.

“Democrats will be clear, strong and consistent in pushing back where we have deep economic, security and human rights concerns about the actions of the Chinese government,” the 2020 platform said.

Biden has also historically supported Taiwan, both as a senator and since leaving office. In January, he congratulated Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Twitter for winning re-election.

This did not stop some Chinese hawks, as well as Chinese dissidents and supporters of Hong Kong and Taiwan independence, fearing that the Biden administration might take a softer line with Beijing. Recent moves by Pompeo and others may be aimed at forcing the hands of the incoming administration, making it difficult to reverse certain policies in their office.

Lobsang Sangay, head of the Central Tibetan Administration, and Ngodup Tsering, CTA’s chief representative in Washington, will be seen at the White House on November 21, 2020.
Another such move is Saturday’s visit to the White House by the head of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). According to the CTA, no leader of the Tibetan government in exile has visited the building in 60 years.

In July, Pompeo accused Beijing of violating human rights in Tibet, pointing to increased restrictions on religion, language and culture in the region, which China has controlled since 1950. Under Washington Trump, he urged “substantive autonomy” for Tibet, even when Beijing condemned such statements as encouraging “fission.”

In a statement to the CTA, the logic in denying its officials access to the White House and the U.S. State Department was “that the U.S. government does not recognize the Tibetan government in exile.”

“Today’s visit is a recognition of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political leader,” the statement added. “(This) unprecedented meeting may sound optimistic about the CTA’s involvement with U.S. officials and will be more formal in the coming years.”

CNN reported with Ben Westcott and Isaac Yee.