Taiwan responds to postponement of Wheeler’s trip to Taiwan

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan responded on Tuesday to the postponement of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s planned visit to Taiwan, stressing that authorities always welcome U.S. cabinet officials to engage in exchanges.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 外交部) added Taiwan will continue to work with the incoming Biden administration to promote international environmental cooperation and facilitate visits by relevant officials to Taiwan.

The EPA administrator is reportedly postponing the official trip to Taiwan after The New York Times published a report on its costs. The postponement also comes after China forcefully objected to a recent reported Taiwan visit from a U.S. Navy admiral, U.S. media The Hill said on Tuesday.

The New York Times reported last week that Wheeler was expected to take a chartered flight to Taipei costing more than US$250,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The visit itself, The Times reported, would have cost US$45,000.

The agency is now putting off the trip, at least for the time being, as first reported by Bloomberg.

EPA spokesperson James Hewitt didn’t specify when the trip might be rescheduled, but he expressed concerns that a government official would leak “deliberative schedules” to the New York Times that “could jeopardize both international diplomacy and personal security.”

Hewitt said that the issue will be referred to the inspector general.