The United States formally unveiled its new de facto embassy in Taiwan on Tuesday, signalling its continued commitment to help defend the island amid escalating tensions between Taipei and mainland China.
China bars Taiwan from membership in the United Nations and many other worldwide organizations and has been luring away the island's remaining diplomatic allies, leaving it with just 18. Earlier this month, the Dominican Republic established diplomatic relations with China and severed ties with Taiwan.
Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, several Taiwanese government officials and a US delegation attended the ceremony. "As long as we stand together, nothing can come between us", President Tsai declared.
The massive building is "a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan", said AIT Director Kin Moy at the opening ceremony.
AIT Director Kin W. Moy - the USA ambassador in all but name - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and a senior State Department official from Washington, attended Tuesday's ceremony, which Beijing slammed as harmful to U.S.
The American Institute in Taiwan is not an official embassy, but a non-profit institution established by the U.S. government to represent its interest since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 under the One China policy.
"We urge the US to redress its wrong doings and avoid damaging China-US ties, peace and stability", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, adding they have already filed a formal complaint with the US over its relationship with Taiwan.
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The massive $256 million complex, complete with Chinese gardens, occupies 6.5 hectares and will house almost 500 American and local employees.
The ceremony was attended by high-ranking Taiwan officials and senior business executives, including Morris Chang, the former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), the world's biggest contract chip maker.
In December 2016, then President-elect Trump accepted a precedence-shattering phone call from Tsai to congratulate him on his election victory, marking the highest-level contact between the two sides in nearly 40 years.
There have also been expressions of support for Taipei from United States officials and lawmakers in the face of growing pressure from Beijing, which has lured away Taiwan's allies and blocked the island's participation in worldwide events.
Beijing has also increased the frequency of military exercises in the last few months, including deploying its own aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster the island's defences.