US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft on Wednesday had lunch with Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York Director James Lee (李光章), a meeting she called “historic” and a further step in the US’ campaign to strengthen relations with Taiwan.
Craft said her lunch with Lee at an outdoor restaurant on Manhattan’s East Side was the first meeting between a top Taiwanese official and a US ambassador to the UN.
“I’m looking to do the right thing by my president, and I feel that he has sought to strengthen and deepen this bilateral relationship with Taiwan, and I want to continue that on behalf of the administration” of US President Donald Trump, Craft said.
The meeting came weeks ahead of the US presidential election on Nov. 3 and barely a day before US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan.
Warmer US relations with Taiwan are largely a result of strong bipartisan support in the US Congress, but also appear to show how the Trump administration is willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.
Craft said that Lee, who was secretary-general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until July and had recently arrived in New York, invited her to lunch and she accepted.
Photo courtesy of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York via CNA
“It was a nice way for the host country to welcome him to New York, and to hear about his family and his experience, and obviously his respect and admiration for the Chinese people,” as well as the “many, many innovations in technology ... that Taiwan has to offer the world,” Craft said.
Craft said that Taiwanese “need to be heard and they’re being marginalized by Beijing.”
“It really is a shame because they should be able to participate in UN affairs just like everyone else,” she said. “If the US doesn’t stand up to China then who’s going to when it comes to Taiwan, and not only Taiwan, but Hong Kong and others?”
Craft said that she and Lee “discussed different ways that we can best help Taiwan become more engaged within the UN.”
She echoed Trump in pointing to an e-mail sent by Taiwan to the WHO in December last year that the organization ignored, warning about person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in China, which indicated that the infection was highly contagious.
“Obviously, we really are pushing for them to be back into the UN, or have a role in the UN health assembly,” Craft said.
Lee called Craft “a terrific diplomat” and said that he was at the meeting to engage, and being new in town, he appreciates meeting people and making friends.
“Taiwan and the US share the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Lee said. “We could make great partners.”
Craft said that the next step is “just being supportive ... and just making sure that he knows that the US appreciates all of their contributions.”
“They have so much to offer the world and are most unselfish about sharing best practices,” she said. “They care about the relationship [of] the Chinese people with the Taiwanese. They care — which to me spoke volumes.”
Craft said that the US and Taiwan share the goal of promoting democracy, and that she was looking forward to meeting President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) one day.
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