The visit of Rear Admiral Michael Studeman to Taiwan, a top US admiral who heads intelligence at the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, has rankled China. Rear Admiral Studeman arrived in Taipei on Sunday. The visit would make Studeman one of the highest-ranking U.S. military officers to have visited Taiwan in recent years, says a report in the Singapore based news channel CNA.
Though Taiwan has not confirmed the visit officially, Reuters on 23rd November reported that the U.S. Navy rear admiral made unannounced visit to Taiwan. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed on Sunday that an American official had arrived in the country but neither the Taiwanese nor the U.S. government has revealed further details. The Pentagon too declined to comment whether Studeman was visiting Taiwan.
Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanna Ou on Tuesday addressed a press conference and said only that the two countries enjoy frequent exchanges and friendly interactions. MOFA has always welcomed American officials to Taiwan, Ou stated.
The visit is bound to cause a lot of consternation for China especially after the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) performed a transit through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday. The transit was confirmed by the US Navy in a statement.
In response to the news, China’s foreign ministry says it’s planning a response in protest of a U.S. Navy admiral’s reported visit to Taiwan. “The Chinese side will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response,” said Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.
The visit of comes at a time when the U.S. relationship with China has become increasingly strained this year due to variety of reasons, China’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, Trump administration being critical of Beijing, situation on the South China Sea, trade wars among others.
On Novemebr 20, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took part in a bilateral economic dialogue, hosted by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the U.S. Pompeo said the “The United States and Taiwan are strong partners in defending freedom, advancing economic ties, and promoting our shared democratic values.” He added, “The American Institute in Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue strengthens our economic relationship even further.”
The close ties between US and Taiwan has not gone down well with China which has taken a aggressive stance and has also threatened to invade the island nation if needed.