The US has lifted the "self-imposed restrictions" on contacts between American and Taiwanese diplomats and officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced, ending a long-standing policy to "appease" China.
The move on Taiwan is likely to anger China and increase tensions between Washington and Beijing as the Trump administration enters its final days ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force. But Taiwan's leaders assert that it is a sovereign state.
In a statement, Pompeo said, “for several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, service members, and other officials' interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts.” The US has maintained close ties with Taiwan since it split from mainland China in 1949 after the end of a civil war.
But until recently Washington has avoided major displays of friendship so as to not antagonise Beijing, which continues to view the self-governing democracy of around 24 million people as an inseparable part of its territory.