U.S. Health Secretary praises Taiwan during highest-level visit since 1979 in a move that slaps China

US Secretary of Health Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, making him the highest ranking American official to visit the island since 1979.  He also met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday.

The visit has been condemned by Beijing, which regards Taiwan as Chinese territory, and comes amid an all-time low in US-China relations.
Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, where he and his team were given coronavirus tests and were seen wearing face masks. The group was met by members of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the director general of the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, CNN reports.

Mr. Azar’s visit brings to the fore a perennial source of friction between the United States and China. China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as its own and objects to official exchanges with the self-governed island. China’s leader Xi Jinping has said that Taiwan is the most important issue in relations with the United States and has vowed to annex the territory by force if necessary. But talk of a new Cold War has intensified as tensions between the Trump administration and Beijing have surged over geopolitics, human rights, trade and technology.

Source: New York Times

Unlike almost every country in the world, Taiwan has weathered the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic admirably well. The island is only 80 miles off the coast of mainland China and very near to where the virus originated. It also has close air connections, plus, with many daily flights to and from Wuhan. Taiwan was forced to contain the outbreak without official help from the World Health Organization and other international bodies because of China’s veto. But Taiwan has only 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only seven people have died from it.