The US has lifted long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced.
The self-imposed restrictions were introduced decades ago to accommodate the mainland Chinese government, which lays claim to the island.
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said, “Today I am announcing that I am lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions. The US-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy. These rules are now null and void.”
Following the announcement, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked Pompeo.
“The closer partnership between Taiwan and the US is firmly based on our shared values, common interests and unshakeable belief in freedom and democracy,” he wrote in a tweet.
The move is likely to anger Beijing and increase tensions with Washington.
It comes as the Trump administration enters its final days ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on Jan 20.
The Biden transition team have said the president-elect is committed to maintaining the previous US policy towards Taiwan.
Analysts say the Biden team will be unhappy with such a policy decision being made in the final days of the Trump administration, but that the move could be reversed easily by Pompeo’s successor Antony Blinken.