UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Her trip canceled in the final days of the Trump administration, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft instead met virtually Wednesday night with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and told her: “The United States will always stand with Taiwan.”
And though she’ll leave office with the president next week, Craft said she still hopes to visit the self-ruled island soon, calling Taiwan “a beacon and a lodestar” for its science, technology and democracy.
The announcement last week that Craft would visit Taiwan sparked sharp criticism from China’s government, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has stepped up threats to bring the island under its control.
China quickly condemned the virtual meeting, saying, “The United States should understand that the attempt to challenge the one-China principle receives no support and is doomed to fail,” in a statement from a spokesman for China’s Mission to the U.N. on Twitter.
American relations with Taiwan have warmed under President Donald Trump, largely due to strong bipartisan support in Congress, but also because the administration has been willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote Taiwan as an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said Craft’s trip would show “what a free China could achieve.” But on Sunday, he canceled all senior-level overseas travels, including his own, to assist with the transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Tsai thanked Craft at the opening of the virtual meeting, which The Associated Press witnessed, “for the staunch support for Taiwan’s international participation and for your efforts to deepening of the Taiwan-U.S. relationship and … for always speaking up for Taiwan at the most important times.”
“The people of Taiwan have been inspired by your action,” Tsai said. “Moving forward, we will keep pushing for our participation in the United Nations, and U.N. affiliated meetings and events, and I hope that the United States will continue to support our efforts.”
Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when China joined, and Beijing has been using its diplomatic clout to stop Taiwan from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership.
Craft called Taiwan “an inspiration for the world,” saying quite a number of U.N. member states — which she didn’t name — “should look at Taiwan, not for opportunities to exclude it, but for reasons to aspire to it.”
“In any context, by the standards of the free world, Taiwan is a model for democracy, equality for women, innovation and scientific exploration, a staunch defender of human rights,” she said.
“The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Taiwan as pillars of democracy,” Craft added.
Tsai said she was looking for Craft’s advice on how to move forward on U.S.-Taiwan relations.
Craft told Tsai she had taught her the importance to “never mistake the present for the determination of the future.”
Associated Press writer Huizhong Wu contributed to this report from Taipei, Taiwan.