US President Donald Trump plans to send another cabinet-level official to visit Taiwan before his administration ends, the island’s premier said Friday.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler will visit to discuss international cooperation on environmental issues, said Premier Su Tseng-chang.

Andrew Wheeler
Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler. File photo: USEPA, via Flickr.

“Taiwan-US exchanges keep warming up… we are glad to see it and we believe it will make bilateral relations better,” he told reporters.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the details and timing of Wheeler’s trip were still being finalised.

If Wheeler visits, he will be the third senior Trump official to go to Taiwan this year.

Those trips have infuriated China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its territory and routinely threatens to annexe the self-ruled island.

Zhao Lijian
Zhao Lijian. Photo: China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Office, via Twitter.

China on Friday said it “resolutely opposes any form of official exchanges between the US and Taiwan”.

“China will make a necessary and legitimate reaction,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Washington diplomatically recognises Beijing over Taipei, but remains a staunch ally of the latter and is bound by Congress to sell weapons to Taiwan to defend itself.

It opposes any move to change Taiwan’s current status by force.

During his tenure Trump has ramped up diplomatic contacts and arms sales to Taiwan, while feuding with China on a host of issues.

Donald Trump
President of the United States Donald Trump. File photo: US Gov’t.

News of the planned visit comes as American and Taiwanese officials are set to hold high-level talks in Washington on Friday to discuss economic and technology issues.

The New York Times quoted Wheeler’s spokesman as saying the visit would take place in December.

He is also planning to visit four Latin American countries in January before President-elect Joseph Biden takes over, the report added.

Beijing has piled military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taipei since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016, in part due to her refusal to acknowledge its stance that the island is part of “one China”. 

Tsai Ing-wen
Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office, via Flickr.

Washington’s increased outreach to Taiwan under Trump has become yet another flashpoint, as US-China relations wallow at their lowest point in decades.

A former head of the EPA visited Taiwan during the administration of Barack Obama. But high-level trips have become much more frequent under Trump.

In August, health chief Alex Azar became the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

A senior diplomat visited a month later.

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