US senior official to visit Taiwan for APEC affairs

Visit to demonstrate US support for island after it loses two diplomatic allies

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U.S. Senior Official for APEC Sandra Oudkirk (CNA photo)

U.S. Senior Official for APEC Sandra Oudkirk (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A senior official at the U.S. Department of State is visiting Taiwan in the coming days in a move that demonstrates Washington’s commitment to supporting the island country after two of its Pacific allies switched relations to China one after the other.

Sandra Oudkirk, who serves as U.S. Senior Official for APEC and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, announced on Thursday (Sept. 26) that she will visit Taiwan in two weeks for APEC-related matters, reported CNA. Details about the trip were not disclosed.

Oudkirk made the announcement at a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee while answering a question by Congresswoman Ann Wagner about whether Washington is taking action to back Taiwan as set out by the Taiwan Travel Act that went into effect in March 2018. The bill promotes bilateral visits between high-level officials of the two countries.

Wagner called for the implementation of measures that underscore the strategic and trade importance of Taiwan. “We can’t sit by and watch China bully our regional ally,” she said. Oudkirk also expressed her disappointment over the decisions by the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to sever ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing, wrote the report.

The announcement came a day after the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, or the TAIPEI Act. The bill is a countermeasure by the U.S. against China’s poaching of the island’s diplomatic allies by cutting aid to and downgrading relations with countries that toe the line of the Chinese Communist Party.