< div> TAIPEI (Reuters) – U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China which claims the island like his, which irritates the United States even more. reports.
Washington severed official relations with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the Democratic Island a priority and boosted arms sales.
Beijing, which was already arguing with Washington over everything from human rights and trade to handling the coronavirus pandemic, threatened Azar’s visit with unspecified countermeasures. China regards Taiwan as a capricious province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.
Azar arrived at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei aboard a U.S. government plane in the late afternoon, and was met by Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. Ambassador to Taiwan, and by Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang.
In accordance with COVID-19 rules, there was no handshake and all officials wore masks, including Azar, as seen in footage broadcast live on Taiwanese TV.
Azar will strengthen economic and public health cooperation with Taiwan and support Taiwan’s international role in the fight against the pandemic.
On Monday, he will sign a memorandum of understanding for health cooperation with the government of Taiwan and visit the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control.
He is also due to meet President Tsai Ing-wen during his visit.
Azar and his team had to be tested for the coronavirus before and on arrival. They will have to wear masks throughout their visit and practice social distancing.
Taiwan’s early and effective measures to combat the disease have kept the number of cases far lower than its neighbors, with 480 infections, including seven deaths. Most of the crates were imported.
The United States has had more cases and deaths of the coronavirus than any other country, and the wearing of masks has become a hot political issue, with some people opposing what they see as an attack on personal freedom.
Report by Ben Blanchard; Edited by William Mallard
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