Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, marking the highest-level visit to the island by a U.S. official since 1979.
Mr. Azar landed in Taipei and was greeted by William Brent Christensen, the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and by Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Ching-kwang, Reuters reported.
The trip, which has been repeatedly bashed by China, signifies the willingness of the Trump administration to escalate the pressure campaign against Beijing even with U.S. elections looming in November.
While Washington and Beijing have clashed on a number of fronts — including trade, human rights, Hong Kong and control of the South China Sea — China has always reacted with a special intensity to signs that the U.S. was bolstering the independence of Taiwan, which China considers an integral part of its territory.
U.S. officials have maintained that Mr. Azar’s primary mission will be to discuss Taiwan’s success in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the secretary is expected to sign a health cooperation memorandum of understanding with Taiwan and visit the island’s Center for Disease Control. He is also scheduled to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen during his stay.
Taiwan has been globally praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. With a population of 23.7 million, Taiwan has reported just 480 cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths. Mr. Azar and the U.S. delegation were tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival.