Pompeo cancels final trip overseas amid tumultuous transition

Nellie Chapman
January 13, 2021

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been due to make a final official visit to Europe while Kelly Clark, Washington's United Nations envoy, was set to land in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon. Pompeo described the rules as previous administrations' attempts to "unilaterally...appease the communist regime in Beijing".

Pompeo condemned the violence, but made no mention of the President's role in galvanizing his supporters.

While the Taiwanese government applauded Pompeo's decision, some experts believe it may not have much impact on US-Taiwan relations.

Here are three important questions related to the move.

The cancelled diplomatic trips round off four tumultuous years of foreign policy under President Donald Trump that tested Washington's traditional alliances in both Europe and Asia.

In a statement, Pompeo said for several decades, the U.S. State Department had imposed complex internal restrictions on American diplomats and other officials when it came to interacting with Taiwan officials.

Craft had been due to visit Taiwan from Wednesday to Friday, prompting China to warn that Washington was playing with fire.

America's relationship with Europe continues to disintegrate during the final days of the Donald Trump administration.

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The decision also grounded US ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft's scheduled trip to Taiwan.

"We've stood by our friends in Taiwan", Pompeo said in a January 7 tweet.

During his tenure, Trump signed off on some $18 billion in big-ticket arms deals for Taiwan and ramped up the frequency of official visits, including sending a cabinet official past year, the highest-level delegation since 1979. A wrong move in the Taiwan Strait could spark conflict between two economic, nuclear-armed superpowers, something the Biden administration will need to grapple with.

"Some kind of speeches as a result of dividing a society can really create this kind of problematics", she told BBC News last week.

The spokesperson reiterated Biden's commitment to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, a foundational law that "will dictate future interactions in the Biden administration", said Rosalyn Hsieh, an associate political science professor at Temple University.

The Tsai administration will prioritize its pursuit of a free trade agreement with the U.S. Although Tsai lifted restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and beef in August - a move that carried domestic political cost - it was unable to forge such a pact with Trump's trade negotiators.

Outgoing U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday told The Wall Street Journal in an interview the country's trade disputes with Taiwan are not yet resolved, citing "a large and growing trade deficit with Taiwan".

Leaders of other top US allies said the same.

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