Taiwan defence minister says he is unsure about reported visit of U.S. official

Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan Defence Minister

© APA | Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan Defence Minister

# 17 February 2023 08:30 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Friday he was "not very certain" about a reported upcoming visit of a senior Pentagon official, a rare trip that would most likely further inflame China-U.S. relations, APA reports citing Reuters.

The Financial Times, citing sources, said the Pentagon's top China official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Chase, would soon visit Taiwan, at a time of rising military tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

Chiu, asked whether Chase would be coming, said "those who are friendly to us" are very welcome.

"But so far it is not very certain," he told reporters on the sidelines of a parliament session.

"I won't explain the details," he added. "I won't explain until I get formal notification."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chase would be the most senior U.S. defence official to visit the island since 2019.

China and the United States are involved in a bitter spat over the U.S. military's shooting down what it called a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina this month. China says the balloon was for monitoring weather.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly demanded foreign officials not visit the democratically governed island.

China staged war games near Taiwan last August to express its anger at a Taipei visit by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Although the United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island's most important arms supplier and the two have a close security relationship, with U.S. defence officials on occasion visiting.

In 2020, a two-star Navy admiral overseeing U.S. military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region made an unannounced visit to Taiwan.