US unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan

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The American Institute in Taiwan, as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei is called, was officially declared open Tuesday morning, in a ceremony attended by senior USA diplomats and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. Moy will then step down next week with no successor named to replace him, adding to the 47 other USA diplomatic missions around the world that now don't have ambassadors.

Beijing has been exerting pressure on businesses and countries to officially consider Taiwan part of China - including successful efforts with certain airlines, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic, which cut ties with Taiwan earlier this year.

On Monday night, China's state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial, suggesting Beijing should warn the USA and Taiwan of possible consequences for any provocative move.

Washington gave up official diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 to recognise Beijing, but it remains the island's most powerful ally and top arms supplier. AIT's Taipei office has nearly 500 American and local employees, while its Kaohsiung branch has more than 30 staff.

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Asked about whether there would be higher levels of American officials coming to Taiwan for the official start of operations at the AIT's new office complex expected in September, a move that will likely face protest from China, Moriarty said as of now, the institute has not had any specific plans.

Also in attendance were Rep. Gregg Harper and Marie Royce, the USA assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

From left: chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan James Moriarty, US assistant secretary of state for education and culture affairs Marie Royce, Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen, principal deputy director ambassador William Moser and AIT director Kin Moy. "High-level visits can be arranged at any time, not just when AIT inaugurates a new building", Templeman told the Guardian.

A smiling Tsai said the new building was a symbol of "more promising" relations between Washington and Taipei.

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China has also stepped up military exercises and air patrols close to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the Beijing-based Global Times noted on the weekend that China had to be prepared for a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, following the conclusion of the island's annual anti-Chinese invasion drill, as well as a Reuters report that Washington could be considering sending a US Navy vessel through the strait.

But U.S. -Sino relations have soured in recent months among China's militarization of the South China Sea and ongoing trade disputes between the world's two leading economic powers.

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