U.S., Taiwan envoys meet after restrictions on contacts lifted
Brussels, Jan. 11 (CNA) The United States ambassador to the Netherlands and his Taiwanese counterpart met at the U.S. embassy in the European country Monday in a possible first since formal diplomatic ties were severed in 1979.
The meeting occurred after Washington announced the removal of restraints on high-level diplomatic contacts between U.S. and Taiwanese officials on Saturday.
"Made some history today: Welcomed Taiwan Representative Chen (Hsing-hsing (陳欣新)) to our Embassy," Ambassador Pete Hoekstra said in a tweet.
"Glad that our @StateDept colleagues around the world will now be able to host our friends from this vibrant democracy on our Embassy grounds. Thanks @Taiwan_in_NL for your friendship," the tweet said.
The post also included three photos showing Hoekstra meeting with Chen at the front entrance of the embassy and inside the embassy.
Asked to comment, Chen told CNA that Hoekstra has always been very friendly toward Taiwan and as soon as he heard about the lifting of restrictions on official contacts, he invited her to the U.S. embassy.
The invitation was intended to show U.S. support and friendship toward Taiwan, Chen said, adding that she and Hoekstra discussed issues related to the Netherlands during their meeting.
The meeting took place after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Saturday that Washington was lifting the restrictions on contacts that have been in place since Washington cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979.
In a statement, Pompeo said that for several decades the State Department had created complex internal restrictions on interactions with Taiwanese counterparts by American diplomats, service members and other officials.
"The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more," Pompeo said in the statement.
"Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions," he added.
A source familiar with the practice said the guidelines had forbidden diplomats and military members from Taiwan to display their national flag at U.S. government venues, as well as all symbols of Taiwan sovereignty from being displayed on U.S. premises.
As part of the guidelines, Taiwanese representative overseas are not allowed to meet U.S. counterparts at U.S. embassies around the world.
Meanwhile, asked to comment on the decision after giving a speech at Voice of America headquarters in Washington D.C. on Monday, Pompeo said he wished lifting the restrictions "had been done a long time ago."
"These weren't rushed. These were considered efforts that we made and they're an important part of the strategy that we've laid out with respect to how to protect and preserve American freedoms [vis-a-vis] the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents," Pompeo said, according to a transcript of comments he made after the speech.
Skeptics have seen the move more as a publicity stunt in the waning days of Donald Trump's presidency to antagonize China and reduce the amount of room for maneuver on China and Taiwan policy for President-elect Joe Biden.
There is no indication as of yet whether the Biden administration, which takes over the reins of government on Jan. 20, will uphold the decision and put it into practice.
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