The US has canceled a visit to Taiwan by its senior envoy to the UN, officials confirmed on Wednesday. In a statement citing transition efforts ahead of next week’s presidential inauguration, the US State Department said it was canceling all senior-level overseas travels, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned trip to Europe.
“The Department of State is well along in its transition efforts with President-elect [Joe] Biden’s team. We are fully committed to the completion of a smooth and orderly transition process to be finalized over the next 8 days,” said a statement.
Biden is to be sworn in as the next US president on Jan. 20.
US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft was expected to arrive on a three-day visit on Wednesday to Taiwan, a plan that drew a rebuke and warning from China
On Monday, Beijing lambasted the US decision to lift restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials after Pompeo on Jan. 9 declared “null and void” the self-imposed restrictions on US diplomats, service members, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese “counterparts.”
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province, but Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949, and has diplomatic relations with 16 countries and regions.
The US formally recognized China in 1979 and shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, acknowledging the “One-China” policy and thus including Taiwan as part of mainland China.
However, it recently stepped up its engagement with Taiwan. Last August, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking US politician to hold meetings on the island in decades.
Last year it also approved arms sales to Taiwan worth billions of dollars.
Beijing has time and again asked Washington to respect the “One-China” policy, and has in response boosted its military presence in the region.