US Health Secretary Alex Azar arrives in Taiwan

US Health Secretary Alex Azar arrives in Taiwan

The U.S. should stop such official interactions with Taiwan, which "send wrong signals to "Taiwan independence" elements", if it wishes "to avoid severe damage to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".

Trump's health secretary, Alex Azar, is due to visit Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, starting Sunday and reaffirm the USA partnership with the Asian country, prompting China to threaten "strong countermeasures".

For the deal to go through, it must eventually be approved by the U.S. Congress.

The rapidly deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Washington comes as Trump seeks re-election in November.

- USA secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, the highest level United States official to visit the island in four decades. On Monday, he will sign a health cooperation memorandum of understanding with Taiwan's government and visit Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung says that representatives of Taiwan and the U.S. will also discuss cooperation in the areas of health and medical care, as well as exchanges of medical supplies.

A plane carrying U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar lands at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020.

Despite its close proximity to mainland Communist China, where the deadly global pandemic first originated last December in the regional city of Wuhan, the island of 23 million has recorded just 476 cases and seven deaths from COVID-19, largely as a result of rigorous testing and case tracing.

In the recent past, Azar was highly criticized for his role in the sluggish role in the U.S. response in the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore replaced by the Vice-President as task force leader to combat the coronavirus.

Mr Azar is the most senior Cabinet member to visit Taiwan in decades and it comes as relations between the world's two biggest economic powers plunge to historic lows.

Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. sent trade officials to Taiwan with regularity.

But Beijing balks at any recognition of self-ruled Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory and vows to seize one day, by force if necessary.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured significantly since Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party were elected in 2016, followed by a landslide reelection early this year. That, in turn, has increased already considerable bipartisan sympathy for Taipei in Washington and prompted new measures to strengthen governmental and military ties.

China threatened unspecified retaliation in response.

Feingold told the Nikkei Asian Review that Azar's trip could be viewed in the context of upcoming U.S.

Azar is the first health secretary to visit Taiwan and the first Cabinet member to visit in six years.

The United States has more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country, and the wearing of masks has become a heated political issue, with some people objecting to what they see as an infringement of personal freedom.

Either way, the timing of the visit appears highly symbolic.

Related Articles