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US cancels high-level diplomatic trips to Taiwan and Europe

US cancels high-level diplomatic trips to Taiwan and Europe
Pompeo has remained staunchly loyal to Trump despite resignations from various cabinet colleagues

The United States on Wednesday canceled two visits by high-ranking envoys to allies in Europe and Taiwan, underscoring a turbulent transition of power from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to make one last official visit to Europe while Washington's envoy to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, headed to Taiwan.

The diplomatic change allows both Europe and Taiwan to avoid hosting potentially uncomfortable travel by the outgoing administration.

European criticism of Trump

Pompeo's two-day stay in Europe would have been his last trip abroad as secretary of state. However, the State Department announced that he would remain in the United States to ensure a "smooth and orderly" transition for the incoming Joe Biden administration.

Pompeo was scheduled to have a private dinner with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and meet with Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, according to a State Department announcement Monday. The purpose of Pompeo's visit to Brussels so close to the end of Trump's term had not been immediately clear.

The US broadcaster CNN reported that the cancellation was linked to criticism from European government officials about Trump's role in stoking violence on the US Capitol last week.

In comments to RTL radio, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called Trump a "criminal" and a "political arsonist who must be brought to court."

Pompeo has remained staunchly loyal to Trump, despite the resignations of a number of colleagues in his cabinet.

Taking a hard line with China

Craft's visit to Taiwan appeared to be part of an effort by the Trump administration to commit the United States to a tough approach to China before Biden takes office on January 20.

The Taiwanese government expressed "understanding and respect" for the decision, but also regretted it. Craft is ready to step down from his job when Biden takes office.

China, which claims the autonomous island of Taiwan as its own territory, has said it strongly opposes the visit. A Chinese representative to the United Nations in New York urged Washington to stop "creating obstacles" between China and the United States.

"It is time for the crazy and irrational behaviors of certain people to stop," said the representative.

Pompeo angered Beijing on Saturday when he said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.

The cancellations come at the end of four years of Trump's unconventional foreign policy that has put America's traditional alliances to the test in both Europe and Asia.

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