U.S. silent on Taiwan rep office name change, says ties ‘rock solid’

The U.S. State Department on Friday did not confirm or deny a news report that said the U.S. was considering approving the change of the name of Taiwan's representative office in Washington D.C., but it reiterated its stance that ties with Taipei were "rock solid."

In a news briefing, Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, did not comment on a Financial Times report which said on Friday that Washington was considering allowing the name of Taiwan's mission in the U.S. capital to be changed from "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" to "Taiwan Representative Office."

"I don't have anything to preview or announce from here when it comes to the name change at all," Porter said. "But what I can say ... broadly speaking is that our support for Taiwan is rock solid and we remain committed to keeping our ties with Taiwan, which is a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner."

The Financial Times cited several anonymous sources close to the matter as saying that the Biden administration was "seriously considering" a request from Taiwan to change the name.

According to the report, both sides had discussed the issue at the end of the Trump administration, but Taiwan made a formal request to the Biden administration in March.

The report said Kurt Campbell, White House Asia adviser, was in favor of changing the name, while the request has also earned wide support in the National Security Council and from State Department Asia officials.

A final decision, however, will have to be made by President Joe Biden, who must sign an executive order before the name can be changed, the report said.

"Changing the name of the office would anger China, which views Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, and pile more pressure on increasingly fraught relations between Washington and Beijing," the report added.

According to the Financial Times, China's embassy in Washington said it "firmly opposes" and urges the U.S. to stop any official interaction with Taiwan, and to refrain from sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces or challenging China's bottom line.

The report came after Biden on Thursday spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (???) in a phone call for the first time since February. A White House readout of the phone call said "the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict."

The Financial Times, meanwhile, reported that senior U.S. government officials held a round of sensitive talks known as the "Special Channel" in Annapolis, Maryland with a Taiwanese delegation, which included National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo (???) and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???), on Friday.

The report added the "Special Channel" meeting marks the first time the Biden team has engaged in high-level, in-person talks with Taiwan. Such meetings have been traditionally kept under wraps to avoid antagonizing Beijing.

In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) did not comment on the possibility of the office name change in the U.S. but said Taiwan's government had intensified efforts to strengthen and upgrade the bilateral relationships between Washington and Taipei.

The MOFA said the government will continue to boost cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan in a broad range of aspects in a pragmatic and steady manner and under reciprocal principles, to cement mutual trust.

Recently, Taiwan's efforts to strengthen ties with European countries resulted in Lithuania agreeing to let Taiwan open a representative office in the country to expand ties with the Baltic state and other Central European countries.

The office, to be named "The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania," will be located in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, according to Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel