U.S. unveils new ‘embassy’ in Taiwan amid strained China ties

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The U.S. unveiled a new representative office in Taipei Tuesday, establishing a de facto embassy in the self-ruled island amid its escalating tensions with China.

The US switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979 but maintains close economic, political and security ties with Taiwan.

China bars Taiwan from membership in the United Nations and many other global organizations and has been luring away the island's remaining diplomatic allies, leaving it with just 18.

The American Institute in Taiwan, built over nine years at a cost of about $250 million, is bankrolled by the US government and staffed by diplomats, effectively making the complex an embassy all but in name.

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.

Tsai hailed the complex as a new chapter in the "great story of US-Taiwan relations".

AIT Chairman James Moriarty, Republican Congressman Gregg Harper, as well as a number of former AIT chairmen and directors also participated in the ceremony on Tuesday morning. Geng Shuang, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Tuesday that Beijing has lodged a protest with the USA over the ceremony.

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"I must point out that the US, by sending officials to Taiwan under whatever pretext, severely violates the one-China principle and three China-US joint communiques, interferes in China's internal affairs and exerts negative impact on China-US relations", Geng said during a news conference. "The new office complex is a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership in the 21st century".

Apart from keeping to a schedule suggested by fengshui experts hired by the AIT, its employees and staff, led by Moy and his wife, were holding incense and praying for good luck behind a table placed with fruit and flowers as offerings to the gods before the ceremony - a common practice for businesses in Taiwan on special occasions.

Speaking with reporters before the ceremony commenced, both Moriarty and AIT Director Kin Moy defended the decision of the US government to send Royce to Taiwan for the dedication ceremony.

"China and the USA are likely to face a new Taiwan Straits crisis sooner or later".

The new AIT compound was constructed over nine years and has cost the USA some $250 million.

The US is embroiled in a major trade row with China, but is keen to avoid a diplomatic fallout as it needs Beijing's help to solve the North Korea nuclear issue.

"I offer you this", he said, "a tangible symbol that the United States is here to stay".

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