Highest-level US official to visit Taiwan in 41 years lands in Taipei

Azar says he is 'Honored to be here to convey our support for Taiwan'

Azar (second from left). (MOFA photo)

Azar (second from left). (MOFA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A delegation led by U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday (Aug. 9), marking the highest-level visit by a member of the Cabinet since the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979.

At 4:48 p.m. on Sunday, Azar and the delegation, which was aboard a U.S. Air Force C-40B aircraft, touched down at Taipei's Songshan Airport. Greeting Azar on the tarmac was Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang (田中光), American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen, and Director-General of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) among others, reported the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

It was reported that Azar is under a tight schedule and that the visit will only last four days. On Monday (Aug. 10) at 10 a.m., Azar is meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), reported Liberty Times.

U.S. Air Force C-40B lands at Songshan Airport. (CNA photo)

Azar will also meet and exchange views with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), and Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德). On Monday Azar will witness a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between AIT and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the U.S., according to AIT.

All members of the delegation had submitted a negative coronavirus screening report within 72 hours before leaving the U.S. They tested negative for the virus again after arriving in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon.

In a post uploaded to his Twitter page early Monday morning, Azar pointed out that all members of the delegation were wearing masks and had tested negative for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). He added that Taiwan occupies a leadership position in the global health field and that he is "honored to be here to convey our support for Taiwan."

Azar (left) disembarking from plane. (CNA photo)

Azar's trip to Taiwan marks the first by an American HHS head and the first by a U.S. Cabinet-level official since 2014. In a tweet posted on Monday, Foreign Minister Wu welcomed Azar and emphasized that fighting the coronavirus is a "significant part of the comprehensive Taiwan-US partnership."

Azar (left) disembarking from plane. (MOFA photo)

Tien (left), Chou (second from left), and Azar (right). (MOFA photo)

U.S. Air Force C-40B lands at Songshan Airport. (CNA photo)