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U.S. unveils de facto embassy in Taiwan

Reuters TAIPEI (Reuters) — The United States unveiled a new $256 million representative office in Taiwan’s capital on Tuesday, a de facto embassy that underscores Washington’s strategic ties with the democratic, self-ruled island as it faces escalating tensions with China.

Washington cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 but remains the island’s strongest ally and sole foreign arms supplier. It opened the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) to conduct relations between the two sides after severing ties.

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.”

“The friendship between Taiwan and the U.S. has never been more promising. The great story of Taiwan-U.S. relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building,” Tsai said.

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

The new complex, a significant upgrade from the low-key military building the AIT had used for decades, will serve as the representative office later this summer, said AIT Director Kin Moy.

Marie Royce, U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said at a ceremony to mark the unveiling that the complex was a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership.

“We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through,” said Royce, who is the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.

The sprawling new site occupies 6.5 hectares, including Chinese gardens, in Taipei’s Neihu district. AIT’s Taipei office has nearly 500 American and local employees, while its Kaohsiung branch has more than 30 staff.

The ceremony was attended by scores of high-ranking Taiwan officials as well as senior business executives, including Morris Chang, the former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC), the world’s biggest contract chip maker.Speech

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