(CNSNews.com) – The State Department distanced itself Monday from a New Year’s Day event at a Taiwanese-owned property in Washington where Taiwan’s national flag was hoisted, saying the U.S. government was not notified in advance and that the flag-raising was “not consistent with U.S. policy.”
Earlier Monday, China’s foreign ministry said it had “lodged solemn representations” with the U.S. in response to the event and urged it to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
Taiwanese media said it was the first time the country’s official representatives in DC had raised the flag since 1979, when the U.S. cut ties with Taipei and recognized Beijing. The communist mainland views the island democracy as a rebellious province that will ultimately be reunified into the “one China.”
At a daily State Department press briefing spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not confirm that China had made a formal complaint, referring the query to Beijing.
She said the administration had not known in advance of the January 1 event, which was held at the Taiwan-owned Twin Oaks estate in Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood.
“The ceremony is not consistent with U.S. policy,” Psaki said, reciting the standard policy position that the U.S. is “fully committed to the U.S. ‘one China’ policy, based on the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.”
“No U.S. government personnel attended the event in any capacity,” she added.
A reporter asked Psaki why the U.S. government would have anything to say about it in the first place.
“You are objecting to a private ceremony at which there was -– that some people raised the Taiwanese flag?” asked the Associated Press’ Matt Lee.
“If I raised the flag of, you know, Narnia over my house, that’s going to be inconsistent with U.S. policy?”
“We may talk about you,” Psaki replied, “but I don’t know if I’ll have a U.S. government comment on it.”
“Well, was the U.S. government involved in any way, shape, or form in this displaying of the flag?”
“We didn’t attend,” she repeated. “We didn’t know about it. That’s our specific comment.”
In the absence of normal diplomatic relations, Taiwan maintains what is known as the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” in Washington. Taiwan also owns the Twin Oaks estate, which served as official residence for Taiwan’s ambassadors from the 1930s until relations were severed.
The Jan. 1 event there was attended by more than 100 people, including Taiwan’s official representative to the U.S., Shen Lyu-shun.
Last week Taiwanese media quoted Shen as saying that the mission had informed the U.S. government in advance of the plans, and that it had given the go-ahead, on condition the event remained low-profile and was not televised.
Queries sent to the Taiwan office in Washington and to the foreign ministry in Taipei about the apparent discrepancy between that statement and Psaki’s brought no response by press time.
The flag-raising at Twin Oaks drew an enthusiastic response from Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who was quoted by the foreign ministry as saying it marked a new milestone in U.S.-Taiwan ties.
Ma cited other improvements in the relationship during his presidency, including the first official visit to Taiwan by a U.S. official of cabinet rank in 14 years – a visit last April by EPA administrator Gina McCarthy – and Taiwan’s 2012 admission to the U.S. visa waiver program.
Soon after the Carter administration exchanged diplomatic relations with Taiwan for China, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, establishing quasi-diplomatic relations with Taiwan and committing the U.S. to helping the island to defend itself.
The “three communiques” cited by Psaki on Monday were signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982. In them, the U.S. acknowledges the position that there is “one China” but does not explicitly recognize Beijing’s claims to Taiwan.