TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech Friday on a non-official visit to Taiwan called for the U.S. to give diplomatic recognition to the self-ruled island China claims as its own territory.
During Pompeo's tenure in the Trump administration, the U.S stepped up official exchanges with Taiwan in moves that were strongly opposed by China, but he did not publicly advocate for formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan while in office.
The U.S. is Taiwan's largest unofficial ally but ended formal recognition when it established diplomatic relations with mainland China's Communist government in 1979.
"It's my view the U.S. government should immediately and take necessary and long overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing, that is to offer the Republic of China Taiwan America' diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country," Pompeo said while speaking at the invitation of the Prospect Foundation in Taipei, a private think tank based in Taiwan.
"It's the reality. It's the fact... there's no need for Taiwan to declare independence because it's already an independent nation," he added.
Pompeo also framed the Russian war in Ukraine as a battle of democracies and autocracies, praising Taiwan for being on the front lines of this fight between "freedom and tyranny."
Pompeo is speculated to be among several Republicans who may seek the party's presidential nomination in 2024.
Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China (Taiwan), is where the former ruling government of mainland China, led by the Nationalist Party, fled to after losing a civil war with the Communist Party in 1949.