Trump term ends with scrapped Europe, Taiwan trips
WASHINGTON, Jan 13: The United States called off last-minute trips by top envoys to its allies in Europe and Taiwan on Tuesday in a sudden diplomatic volte-face during the chaotic swansong days of the Trump administration.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been due to make a final official visit to Europe while Kelly Clark, Washington's UN envoy, was set to land in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon.
But the visits were suddenly scrapped a week before Democrat Joe Biden takes office and as President Donald Trump faces an all-but-certain second impeachment on a charge of inciting his supporters to storm Congress last week.
The U-turn encapsulates the turbulent transition period that has enveloped Washington since Biden's November election victory.
But it also allows both Europe and Taiwan to dodge hosting what could have been potentially awkward delegations by an outgoing administration.
"It was very late in the game to be having a visit of this level," Maggie Lewis, an analyst at Seton Hall Law school who is based in Taiwan, told AFP.
"It's appropriate to be focusing on the incoming administration instead of the final days of the Trump administration."
The canceled trips round off four tumultuous years of foreign policy under Trump that tested Washington's traditional allies in both Europe and Asia.
The two-day stay in Europe would have been Pompeo's last foreign trip but the State Department announced he was staying to ensure a "smooth and orderly" transition.
The trip was already looking of limited diplomatic value with Pompeo not scheduled to meet any top EU officials in Brussels.
In Luxembourg, an official told AFP on condition of anonymity that one leg of Pompeo's trip was canceled after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called Trump a "criminal" in comments to RTL radio.
Asselborn described Trump as a "political pyromaniac who must be brought before a court" over last week's attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. Pompeo has remained staunchly loyal to Trump despite resignations from a string of his cabinet colleagues and calls to force the president from office over the attack on the Capitol. -AFP