The new AIT is seen in Taipei
TAIPEI (Reuters) - The United States will unveil a new $250 million representative office in Taiwan's capital on Tuesday, underscoring Washington's strategic ties with the self-ruled island as it faces escalating tensions with China.
The United States cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979, but remains the island's strongest ally and sole foreign arms supplier. After severing ties, it opened the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) to conduct relations between the two sides.
The new complex, a significant upgrade from the low-key military building the AIT had used for decades, will serve as the representative office later this summer, said AIT Director Kin Moy.
Marie Royce, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and U.S. Congressman Gregg Harper are expected to attend Tuesday's ceremony.
Royce is the highest ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan under its "one China" policy, and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it sees as a wayward province under its control.
China's hostility toward Taiwan has grown since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016. Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.
Tsai, who has said she wants to maintain the status quo but will protect Taiwan's security and not be bullied by Beijing, is expected to give a speech at the new AIT office on Tuesday.
Taiwan recently lost two diplomatic allies after they switched ties to China, while some international companies have changed their websites to show the island's designation as being part of China.
China has also stepped up military drills, sending bombers and jet fighters on exercises near the island which Taipei has denounced as intimidation.
Taiwan has lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to bolster the island's defenses.
(Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Darren Schuettler)