US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will visit Taiwan sometime in the future, the US State Department said on Thursday.
“McCarthy will not visit Taiwan on this trip,” a US State Department spokesperson said, referring to McCarthy’s current trip that has taken her to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
“She plans to visit Taiwan at a time mutually convenient to the United States and our Taiwan partners in environmental protection,” the spokesperson said.
The US State Department denied media reports that a planned visit by the EPA head to Taiwan had been canceled.
“No, the administrator needed to return to Washington,” the spokesperson said.
McCarthy’s potential visit was widely covered in the media this week.
If the visit had taken place, McCarthy would have been the first US Cabinet-level official to travel to Taiwan in 13 years. The last occasion was in 2000 when then-transportation secretary Rodney Slater visited the nation.
Several media outlets reported on Wednesday morning that McCarthy was to arrive yesterday. However, the Chinese-language United Evening News released a story later the same day saying the visit had been canceled.
According to the United Evening News, which cited an unnamed source, visiting American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said during a dinner with Taiwanese lawmakers on Wednesday that a planned visit by McCarthy this week had been canceled due to the Taiwanese media reports on the trip.
The US State Department spokesperson said on Thursday that Taiwan and the US EPA have long-standing programs on environmental cooperation that have benefited the region and “will continue.”
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) on Thursday said he believed that Washington canceled McCarthy’s visit to show its dissatisfaction with the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s soft response to Beijing’s recent demarcation of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that covers the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea
“I don’t think the US government called off McCarthy’s Taiwan visit simply because it was leaked to the media,” Chen said, maintaining that the real reason was the US administration’s displeasure with the Ma government’s China-friendly stance in the dispute over the zone.
Amid rumors that Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) recently returned to Taiwan to brief the government on Washington’s dissatisfaction with Taiwan’s handling of the issue, AIT Director Christopher Marut said yesterday in a statement that the US saw Taiwan’s response to China’s declaration of the zone as constructive.
“The United States appreciates Taiwan’s constructive response to Beijing’s November 23 announcement of an East China Sea ADIZ,” the statement said.
Contradicting the rumors, Marut said: “The US-Taiwan unofficial relationship is in great shape. We are working well together.”
On Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) also denied such rumors when asked about the issue reported by local media.