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U.S., Taiwan hold talks on strengthening economic ties

WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The United States and Taiwan held talks on Friday on strengthening their economic relationship in the face of increasing pressure on the island from mainland China, which the Taiwanese side hailed as a successful step forward.

The talks, under the auspices of a new Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, were held virtually and in person, led on the U.S. side by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, who angered China with a visit to Taipei in September.

Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi brought a delegation to Washington for the discussions.

A statement from Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to establish an “institutionalized dialogue mechanism.”

“Both sides also discussed a wide range of issues including science and technology, supply chain restructuring, 5G networks, investment review, infrastructure and energy, global health security and women’s economic empowerment,” it said.

There was no immediate statement from the U.S. side, but in announcing the dialogue this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks would include efforts to ensure safe and secure supply chains and 5G security.

The dialogue, which self-ruled Taiwan hopes may lead eventually to a free-trade agreement, is part of increased U.S. engagement with Taipei under the outgoing administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has angered Beijing.

China claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory and reacted with fury when the U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taipei in August, followed by Krach in September, sending fighter jets near the island each time.

Azar was the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan since Washington switched official diplomatic recognition to the mainland in 1979 and Krach was the most senior State Department official to visit in those four decades. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)