Beijing protests US health secretary's upcoming visit to Taiwan

China upset over US cabinet official's trip, urges Washington to end official contact with nation

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to news of the American secretary of health’s upcoming visit to Taiwan, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (Aug. 5) expressed Beijing's discontent, demanding an end to all official exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will be visiting Taiwan in the near future.

Azar will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). Additionally, he will visit the Central Epidemic Command Center and speak with health experts about strengthening Taiwan-U.S. cooperation on epidemic prevention and healthcare, CNA reported.

At a regular press conference Wednesday afternoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said that China firmly opposes official exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan. He stated that Beijing had already made solemn representations to the U.S., both at the American embassy in Beijing and in Washington.

The spokesperson also said that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in U.S.-Sino relations, with the "one China" principle being its political basis. He urged the U.S. to abide by the principle and the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués and to deal with the issue properly to avoid sending “any wrong signals to Taiwan independence elements.”

Azar will be the first U.S. health secretary and the highest-ranking Cabinet-level official to visit Taiwan since 1979.