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WASHINGTON -The U.S. State Department said on Friday it had issued new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with officials from Taiwan, a move that deepens U.S. relations with Taipei amid stepped up Chinese military activity around the island.
"These new guidelines liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan, consistent with our unofficial relations," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in statement.
The aim, he said, was "to encourage U.S. government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship."
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in January he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.
Price said the new guidelines had followed a policy review and would "provide clarity throughout the Executive Branch on effective implementation of our "one China" policy" - a reference to the long-standing U.S. policy under which Washington officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei.
The statement provided no details of the guidelines, but a report on the Financial Times website shortly before the release of Price's statement said they would mean U.S. officials would be able to host Taiwanese officials regularly at federal government buildings.
U.S. officials would also be permitted to meet counterparts at Taiwan’s economic and cultural offices in the United States and be able to attend events at Twin Oaks, an estate in Washington that served as the residence of Taiwan's ambassador until the United States switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, the paper said.
However, it quoted a U.S. official as saying there would still be some “guard rails,” such as not allowing officials to attend functions at Twin Oaks on major Taiwanese holidays that might complicate the U.S. "One-China" policy.
The State Department announcement comes at a time of raised tensions over Taiwan, which China claims as its own. Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China's air force near the island.
The White House on Friday said it was keeping a close watch on increased Chinese military activities in the Taiwan Strait, and called Beijing's recent actions potentially destabilizing.
Beijing on Thursday blamed the United States for tensions after a U.S. warship sailed close to Taiwan.
Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue and a major bone of contention with Washington, which is required by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
China believes the United States is colluding with Taiwan to challenge Beijing and giving support to those who want the island to declare formal independence. REUTERS