The United States formally unveiled its new de facto embassy in Taiwan on Tuesday, signalling its continued commitment to help defend the island amid escalating tensions between Taipei and mainland China.

A dedication ceremony for the US$250 million ($356.5m) four-storey office compound was attended on Tuesday morning by senior officials from Taiwan and the US, including the island's President Tsai Ing-wen.

The new base for the American Institute in Taiwan is said to be the strongest and most secure structure ever built on the island, made with blast-proof materials over nearly 10 years, reports the South China Morning Post.

Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, was one of the representatives for the US government, with many officials accompanying President Donald Trump for his summit in Singapore with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.


"It represents much more than steel and glass and concrete," Royce said at the ceremony.

"The new office complex is a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership in the 21st century."

Royce is the wife of a long-time Taiwan advocate and House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Ed Royce.

Also among the guests of honour were William Moser, principal deputy director of the US Overseas Office, and US Congressman Gregg Harper, co-chairman of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

A smiling Tsai said the new building was a symbol of "more promising" relations between Washington and Taipei.

Ties between Taiwan and mainland China have been strained since Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province to eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Tsai has also refused to acknowledge the "1992 consensus" that there is only "one China" and that Taiwan forms part of it.

Beijing says the principle forms the basis of any ties between the mainland and Taiwan.

Beijing has sought to increase political pressure on the island, halting any cross strait dialogue and isolating it internationally by poaching its few overseas diplomatic allies.

China has also stepped up military exercises and air patrols close to Taiwan.

Trump decided not to send cabinet-level officials to the opening ceremony to avoid further antagonising Beijing amid other tensions over trade and China's claims to much of the South China Sea, sources with ties to the US and Chinese governments told the South China Morning Post earlier this month.

Taiwanese politicians, however, hope that more senior US officials such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or national security adviser John Bolton may visit the island this autumn.

This story first appeared in the South China Morning Post and was reproduced with their permission.