Taipei, Aug 5 (efe-epa).- The United States health and human services secretary will travel to Taiwan in the next few days on what will be the highest-level visit by a US official since 1979 to the island, which China considers a rebel province, the Taiwanese foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.
In a statement, the ministry welcomed Alex Azar’s visit, whose exact dates it did not specify, and said that the American official will meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and foreign and health ministers, Joseph Wu and Chen Shizhong respectively, among others.
The ministry described Azar as a long-term and firm friend of Taiwan and said that, after taking office, he strongly supported the island’s participation in the World Health Organization.
The statement also added that Azar had publicly highlighted the contribution of the Taiwan model in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement released by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Azar said that “Taiwan has been a model of transparency and cooperation in global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and long before it.”
“I look forward to conveying (US) President Trump’s support for Taiwan’s global health leadership and underscoring our shared belief that free and democratic societies are the best model for protecting and promoting health,” he added. “This trip represents an opportunity to strengthen our economic and public health cooperation with Taiwan, especially as the United States and other countries work to strengthen and diversify our sources for crucial medical products.”
The Taiwanese ministry also noted that Azar’s trip was the highest-level visit by a US official to the island since 1979, when relations between Washington and Taipei became unofficial and informal after the US recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and normalized its ties with Beijing.
The ministry stressed that Azar’s visit showed that the foundation of mutual trust between the US and Taiwan is “solid, while demonstrating the US’ “firm support” to the island.
It also added that the Taiwanese government will constantly improve the global partnership between Taiwan and the US and continue to uphold the shared values of democracy, freedom and human rights.
Azar’s visit comes at a time of worsening China-US relations, after the closure a couple of weeks ago of their respective consulates in Houston and Chengdu and with the technological conflict between the two exacerbating after Washington threatened to ban the popular Chinese application TikTok.
Most experts believe that tensions between the countries will continue to escalate until the US presidential election in November, owing to US President Donald Trump’s need to improve his electoral prospects. EFE-EPA