Azar Visit to Taiwan Comes Amid Growing U.S.-China Strains
Aug. 10, 2020 (EIRNS)—With effectively dueling military exercises underway between China and the United States, including in the East China Sea, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan yesterday to Chinese denunciations of interference in its internal affairs. The U.S. officially cited reason for Azar’s visit is an “inspection tour” and discussions to learn about Taiwan’s success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic (just 480 cases, 7 deaths to date). He is supposed to sign a “Health Cooperation memorandum of understanding” on today and visit Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control.
However, not only is Azar the highest-ranking U.S. official to go to Taiwan since 1979 when the U.S. established relations with China, he is also scheduled to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which is highly unusual and will not likely be limited to a discussion of the pandemic.
On Aug. 6 preceding Azar’s visit, British wire service Reuters carried an “Exclusive” unconfirmed report that the United States is negotiating the sale of at least four of its large sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time, in a deal to ratchet up tensions further. Specifically they are said to be Sea Guardian surveillance drones, which will vastly expand the reach of Taiwan’s drone fleet, having a range up to 6,000 nautical miles. Reuters describes them as capable of carrying advanced missiles, though not equipped with them. Reuters qualified its charge by saying such a sale is not yet been approved by Congress, and only “tacitly authorized” by the State Department.
Reuters also reported an announcement by Taiwan’s air force that Chinese air force jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait on Aug. 10 as Azar and Tsai met, and were tracked by Taiwanese missiles.
Meantime, an editorial by Xinhua today observed that Azar’s visit “stands as Washington’s fresh flagrant provocation against the one-China principle, and a serious challenge to the political foundation of China-U.S. relations. ... By challenging the one-China principle, Washington is also trying to test where Beijing’s bottom line lies and blur its clear-cut commitments on the Taiwan question in salami tactics.
“In the three China-U.S. joint communiqués, the most fundamental political documents that have ensured stability and progress in bilateral ties over the past more than four decades, Washington has not only recognized that ‘there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China,’ but also promised that ‘the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.’ ”