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January 17, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — A former premier will represent Taiwan at Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, a visit likely to be closely scrutinized by China for signs the incoming president intends to make good on remarks suggesting a shake-up in relations between Taipei, Washington and Beijing.

Yu Shyi-kun will be joined by lawmakers and local government officials representing both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Nationalists, the Foreign Ministry announced. It said the delegation, which intends to “express the importance our government and people place on close friendly bilateral relations,” left Monday.

Along with attending the inauguration, the delegation will hold talks with politicians, academics and overseas Chinese community representatives, the ministry said in a statement on its website. “Taiwan-U.S. relations have a lengthy history and have made significant progress in recent years,” the statement said. Congratulating Trump on his election, it said the government would “continue to strengthen Taiwan-U.S. relations in future on the basis of excellent mutual trust and interaction.”

The U.S. has no formal relations with Taipei in deference to China, which claims the island as its own. However, the two maintain robust informal ties, while Washington sells Taiwan arms and is legally bound to regard any threat to the island as a matter of grave concern.

Trump upset decades of diplomatic precedent by talking by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after his victory in November’s presidential election. Last week, he said in a newspaper interview that Washington’s “one China policy” under which it recognized Beijing in 1979 was open to negotiation, and had earlier questioned why the U.S. should be bound by such an approach without China offering incentives.

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the “one-China principle” regarding Taiwan is not negotiable and any attempt to reconsider the issue would be self-defeating. “Not everything in the world can be bargained or traded off,” Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

China threatens to use force to assert control over Taiwan and tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen since Tsai’s election last year. Beijing has cut off contacts with her government and is using its diplomatic clout to further isolate the island.

Yu served as premier under former President Chen Shui-bian, who was despised by Beijing for his defiantly pro-independence stance.

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