Senior US official, lawmaker in Taiwan for office dedication

President Tsai Ing-wen and Gregg Harper

A smiling Tsai said the new building was a symbol of "more promising" relations between Washington and Taipei.

America's de facto embassy in Taiwan has reopened after a $250m renovation, with an attending United States official hailing the new building as "a symbol of strength and vibrancy" of the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.

A career member of the US Foreign Service, Christensen also served at the US embassy in Beijing and was last posted in Taiwan during former president Ma Ying-jeou's second term and maintained cordial relations with Taiwan's major parties.

On Monday night, China's state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial, suggesting Beijing should warn the U.S. and Taiwan of possible consequences for any provocative move.

In comments certain to rile Beijing, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the new complex was a reaffirmation of both sides commitment to a "vital relationship".

So long as both sides stood together, nothing could come between them, she added.

The completion of the new AIT offices - built over nine years at a cost of $250 million - comes amid closer US-Taiwan ties.

The American Institute in Taiwan's new building, located on a leafy hillside in the Taipei suburb of Neihu, will be opened by its director Kin Moy, who in the absence of official ties between the US and Taiwan is the de facto American ambassador to the self-governing island.

"The US$250-million-dollar investment for this new facility" represents the USA government's "strong" commitment to Taiwan, said Harper, who arrived in Taiwan last Sunday.

The sprawling new site occupies 6.5 hectares, including Chinese gardens, in Taipei's Neihu district.

He also worked at the AIT in Taipei from 1995 to 1998.

China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since President Tsai was elected in 2016. Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

Kharis Templeman, a social science research associate at Stanford University's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific research center, said that given the delicate nature of the summit in Singapore, the Trump administration may have chosen not to use the occasion to make a strong symbolic statement.

Earlier speculation suggested that President Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton could visit Taiwan for the unveiling of the new AIT complex, a move that will certainly provoke Beijing, which opposes interactions of high-level officials between the USA and Taiwan.

Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster its defenses.

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