The visit was condemned by Beijing, which regards Taiwan as Chinese territory, and comes amid an all-time low in US-China relations.
Speaking on Monday, Azar said his trip “demonstrates the strong US-Taiwan partnership on global health and health security, one of the many aspects of our global friendship.”
“We see Taiwan as a vital partner, a democratic success story and a positive force in the world,”
“There are three general themes for this journey. The first is recognizing Taiwan as an open and democratic society, carrying out a transparent and highly successful COVID-19 response. The second is to reaffirm Taiwan as a long-time partner and friend of states. United., And to highlight our history of extensive collaboration in health and public health. The third is to note that Taiwan deserves to be recognized as a world health leader with an excellent track record of contributing to international health. ”
Speaking alongside Azar, Tsai thanked US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Azar “for their continued recognition of the Taiwan model’s contribution to global anti-pandemic efforts, as well as their strong support. to Taiwan’s international participation “.
Tsai described the development on Monday as “highly regrettable”.
Tensions across the strait
Although the Communist Party has never controlled Taiwan, Beijing considers the island a sovereign part of China.
“I want to emphasize that the one China principle is universally recognized by the international community. Any attempt to ignore, deny or challenge that principle is doomed to fail.”
After the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when the defeated nationalist government withdrew to Taiwan, the Republic of China – as the island is officially known – continued to maintain diplomatic relations and a UN seat, meaning that c ‘were actually two China competing for recognition and alliances.
As many countries have opened relations with the People’s Republic of China, they have severed ties with Taiwan, which lost the UN seat in 1971.
Today, few countries have diplomatic relations with the island, recognizing Beijing as the legitimate “one China” government. However, many countries, including the United States, do not recognize China’s claims of sovereignty on the island of Taiwan.
In recent years, as Taiwan has moved away from China’s orbit by electing Tsai’s pro-independence People’s Democratic Party, demands have increased in some quarters for countries to do more to support the island in the face of Chinese pressure, both military and diplomatic.
With tensions growing between Washington and Beijing, the US appears to be willing to engage with Taiwan far more than in the past, including through arms sales and visits like Azar’s.
Speaking on Monday, Azar said his visit was “consistent with the US’s longstanding” China policy “and past engagement with Taiwan.”
Paula Hancocks reported from Taiwan. James Griffiths reported from Hong Kong.