An American delegation to Taiwan, no matter how it is portrayed by Washington, is bound to be provocative to Beijing. United States President Joe Biden is well aware of the sensitivity, yet still sent senior representatives to meet Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen and other officials. Taking place at the same time as the administration’s climate envoy, John Kerry, was in Shanghai for talks with his Chinese counterpart ahead of America’s Earth Day summit next week, it would seem poorly timed. But as goading as the trip appeared, it served the important purpose of sending a message to Taipei that it needs to handle cross-strait relations prudently. That was apparent in the comments by the emissaries, who included Biden’s friend and adviser and former US senator Chris Dodd and one-time deputy secretaries of state Richard Armitage and James Steinberg. While signalling the president’s economic, diplomatic and military commitment to the island, they also had the opportunity to tell Tsai not to be overconfident with her government’s plans and policies. Taiwan is, after all, an integral part of Chinese territory and as Beijing’s stepped-up military manoeuvres near the island in recent weeks prove, threats to sovereignty are never tolerated. For Taiwan and the US, that means being pragmatic. Washington has agreed with Beijing that there is only one China. But there was a noticeable shift under former president Donald Trump and Biden would seem to be following that approach. There has been increased US military activity around Taiwan and in the South China Sea since he took office in January and, last Friday, the State Department issued new guidelines for contacts between American and Taiwanese officials to reflect “our deepening unofficial relationship”. New US leader must rethink Taiwan policy Trump broke existing protocols by sending incumbent officials to the island and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is believed to have presidential aspirations, is expected to visit soon. Pompeo repeatedly angered Beijing while in office and he is certain to make incendiary remarks and promises in Taiwan. The visit by Dodd and his colleagues is irritating to Chinese officials, but their message to Tsai and her government to be careful about what they say and do is sage advice.