TAIPEI, March 27 (Reuters). US President Donald Trump has signed a law that requires increased US support for Taiwan internationally. This is likely to upset a China that is already angry with Trump’s criticism of the treatment for the coronavirus outbreak.
China claims democratic and separately governed Taiwan as its own territory and regularly describes Taiwan as its most sensitive and important issue in relations with the United States.
While the United States, like most countries, has no official relationship with Taiwan, the Trump administration has increased support for the island with arms sales and laws to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China.
The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Improvement Initiative Act (TAIPEI), signed by Trump on Thursday with strong support from both parties, requires the US State Department to report to Congress on measures to strengthen Taiwanese diplomatic relations.
It also requires the United States to “change” engagement for nations that undermine Taiwan’s security or prosperity.
Taiwan complains that China has been poaching the dwindling number of countries that have formal relations with Taipei and has prevented it from participating in institutions such as the World Health Organization. China says Taiwan is only one of its provinces and has no right to be recognized as a country.
Taiwan’s State Department welcomed US law and thanked the United States for its support for Taiwan’s “diplomatic area” and the right to participate internationally.
“We are also ready to work with the United States and countries with similar ideals to promote the common goals of freedom and democratic values and continue to strive for an even larger international space for Taiwan,” said the ministry.
There was no immediate response from Beijing, which is already furious with Trump’s allegations that China mistreated the outbreak of the corona virus.
China’s Department of Defense accused the United States of playing a dangerous game with its support for Taiwan after a U.S. warship crossed the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday.
One of the law’s authors, Senator Cory Gardner, said the law is necessary to respond to Chinese pressure and bullying in Taiwan.
“This bipartisan legislation requires a state-of-the-art approach to increasing our support for Taiwan and will send a strong message to the nations that there will be ramifications for supporting Chinese actions that undermine Taiwan,” he said in a statement.
The United States has been particularly concerned about China spinning off Taiwan’s allies in the Pacific and Latin America, areas of the world where Washington has traditionally viewed its zone of influence.
Taiwan has only diplomatic relations with 15 countries, almost all small and developing countries such as Nauru, Belize and Honduras. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard editing by Robert Birsel)