Bloomberg: visit by the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency to Taiwan cancelled

According to the agency, the decision to cancel the visit was made, inter alia, due to concerns about the coronavirus

Andrew Wheeler, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who was planning a visit to Taiwan in December, cancelled his trip. This was announced by the Bloomberg agency on Tuesday.

“Due to urgent domestic priorities <…> Wheeler’s visit to Taiwan has been postponed”, –  spokesman for the EPA James Hewitt told the agency. Bloomberg does not specify whether Hewitt’s words mean that the trip has been postponed, but notes that the Taiwanese authorities have expressed regret over the decision of the American side to cancel the visit. They stressed that Taipei would continue to facilitate the organisation of visits by officials at this level and would also promote cooperation on environmental issues with the new US administration.

According to Bloomberg, the decision to cancel the visit was made after assessing the potential costs – due to concerns about the Coronavirus, Wheeler and other EPA staff were to take a special charter flight to Taiwan.

Wheeler’s upcoming visit was announced on 20 November by Taiwan’s leading media outlets. Following this information, the Chinese Foreign Ministry strongly protested to Washington and threatened to retaliate if the trip took place.

In recent months the White House has intensified its contacts with Taipei amid worsening relations with Beijing due to the situation in Hong Kong. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited Taiwan from 9 to 12 August, which triggered strong protests from Chinese authorities. US Deputy Secretary of State Keith Krak visited Taipei from 17 to 19 September. The reason for his visit, which was called a “landmark” visit, was to attend a ceremony in memory of former Taiwanese Head of Administration Li Denhue. During the American diplomat’s stay on the island, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army demonstrated military manoeuvres in the Strait of Taiwan area.

On 22 November, Reuters reported with reference to sources that Rear Admiral Michael Steudman, Rear Admiral of the United States Navy, who oversees military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region, arrived in Taiwan on an unannounced visit. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiang, commenting on the information on Monday, said the United States should stop any contact with Taiwan in the military field.