As the Ukraine conflict escalates, Pompeo believes the US should recognize Taiwan; China responds.

The Pompeo-encouraged shift would upend more than four decades of US "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan, a strategy designed to reduce the possibility of a direct clash with China.

Former US Secretary of State and future presidential contender Mike Pompeo suggested in Taipei that the US should immediately recognize Taiwan as a country, prompting a testy response from Beijing.

"It is vital to change 50 years of uncertainty," said Pompeo, the Trump administration's top diplomat, who is in Taipei on an unofficial visit at the request of a think group.

"While the United States should continue to engage with the People's Republic of China as a sovereign government, America's diplomatic recognition of the 23 million freedom-loving Taiwanese people and its legal, democratically elected government can no longer be ignored and avoided," he said in a speech Friday, referring to the government in Beijing's official name.

The shift advocated by Pompeo would destabilize more than four decades of US "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan, a strategy designed to reduce the possibility of a direct clash with China, which claims the independently administered island as part of its territory despite never ruling it.

Pompeo's call comes at a particularly delicate moment, with similarities to Russia's invasion of Ukraine being made. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has dismissed fears that the European war may spark a similar catastrophe in Asia, claiming that the two circumstances are "fundamentally different."

Since establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing's Communist government in 1979, the United States has maintained informal "people-to-people" connections with Taiwan while avoiding a stance on the island's sovereignty.

Qin Gang, China's ambassador in Washington, warned in January that if Taiwan's government went toward formalizing its independence, his nation and the United States would almost certainly engage in armed combat.

'Babble Nonsense'

Later Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin slammed Pompeo, calling him "a former politician whose reputation has already gone bankrupt."

"Such a person's spouting gibberish will fail," he continued.

While delivering the government's annual work report at the commencement of the National People's Congress on Saturday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stated that Beijing will "stay faithful to the major principles and policies on work connected to Taiwan."

Pompeo's travel coincided with one by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, which Washington meant as a show of support in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which shares similar security concerns as Taiwan. Pompeo and Mullen both visited with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who has enraged Beijing by challenging Beijing's claims to sovereignty over the island.

As a result, China has increased military, political, and economic pressure on Taiwan, most notably by dispatching military aircraft to the island. In 2021, People's Liberation Army jets flew 960 sorties inside Taiwan's air-defense identification zone, more than double the previous year.

Pompeo is being protested.

A tiny crowd of pro-unification demonstrators gathered at the hotel in central Taipei where Pompeo delivered his comments. In his address, he stated that the right to demonstrate was one of the characteristics that distinguished Taiwan's democracy, and he quipped that they "made me feel at home."

Pompeo, a vocal opponent of China's ruling Communist Party, served as former President Donald Trump's top diplomat from 2018 to 2021, during which time two Cabinet-level officials visited Taipei, the most senior American delegations since the US shifted diplomatic ties to Beijing.

He has called China's treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority in the far western province of Xinjiang "genocide," and he has spoken with persons who claim to have been held in labor camps there. Beijing has called the claims "the lie of the century," and has organized many news conferences to discredit some of the same people who met with the then-secretary of state.

Pompeo is among a number of former Trump administration officials who are being eyed as prospective presidential candidates in 2024. He founded a political organization last year to support conservative candidates for governor, and he's slated to appear at a Republican Party fundraiser in Iowa later this month, which plays a significant role in the nomination process with its early caucuses.