US cancels UN envoy’s Taiwan visit, all senior-level overseas travels

US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft during a news conference at the US State Department in Washington, the US in September.  Image: Patrick Semansky 

DHARAMSALA, 13 Jan: The US has called off the planned visit of its UN ambassador Kelly Craft’s visit to Taiwan at the last minute, a trip that Beijing warned the US will pay a heavy price for.

The decision to cancel UN ambassador’s three-day visit to Taiwan along with the all senior-level overseas travels was announced by the US State Department in order to assist with the transition of the next administration.

“We are expecting shortly a plan from the incoming administration identifying the career officials who will remain in positions of responsibility on an acting basis until the Senate confirmation process is complete for incoming officials. As a result, we are cancelling all planned travel this week, including the Secretary’s trip to Europe” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Just a week remains now into the Donald Trump’s presidency before President-elect Joe Biden would be sworn in as the 46th president of the US on 20 Jan.

The US envoy to the UN was due to visit Taiwan for three days from 13-15 Jan. Her visit vas announced on 7 Jan. Her office said that her visit aims to “reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space,” and her itinerary includes meetings with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and foreign minister Joseph Wu and to deliver a speech at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs, an agency under Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Chinese mission to the UN strongly objected to the planned trip and warned that “the US will pay a heavy price for its wrong action.”

“China strongly urges the United States to stop its crazy provocation, stop creating new difficulties for China-US relations and the two countries’ cooperation in the United Nations, and stop going further on the wrong path,” the statement read.

The Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration has expressed its regret over the development and stated that it understands and respects the US’ decision to call off the visit

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  a cabinet-level policy-making body of the island has said in a statement that it “regrets that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft cannot lead a delegation to visit Taiwan from Jan. 13 to 15 as scheduled, but welcomes Ambassador Craft to visit at an appropriate time in the future.”

If the ambassador’s visit has not been cancelled at the last minute, she will become the third high-level US official to visit the self-ruled island in recent months.

Last August, Alex Azar, the United States Health and Human Services secretary on Monday became the highest-level American diplomat to visit Taiwan in more than 40 years.

A month later, in September,  the US Under Secretary of State Keith Krach’s visited Taiwan. Both the visits came at a time when the US-China relationship is at their lowest point and in spite of Beijing’s strong objection and warnings.

Beijing claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and views it as a wayward province to be reunified with China by force if necessary.

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