Amidst trade tensions between Beijing and Washington, US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is on a rare visit to disputed Tibet. It is the first visit by any US envoy to the sensitive Himalayan region since 2015.
"The US Ambassador to China is making a trip to Tibet, the first by an American envoy in four years, after obtaining rare access to the restricted region," a US State Department spokesperson told ANI on Monday.
The American envoy will travel to Qinghai Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region from May 19 to 25.
His visit will include official meetings as well as visits to religious and cultural heritage sites, schools and other places of interest.
According to the State Department, the ambassador has welcomed this opportunity to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region and has encouraged authorities to provide access to the region to all American citizens.
"The envoy will engage with local leaders to raise longstanding concerns about restrictions on religious freedom and the preservation of Tibetan culture and language. He will also learn first-hand about the region's unique cultural, religious and ecological significance," the spokesperson added.
The visit comes as Beijing and Washington are engaged in a trade standoff.
The United States recently increased tariffs on Chinese goods amounting to over 200 billion US dollars even as the two sides were amid negotiations. In retaliation, China said that it would be increasing duties on USD 60 billion worth US imports from June 1.
In December, China criticised the United States for passing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, saying it was "resolutely opposed" to the US legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing "serious harm" to their relations.
US President Donald Trump has signed the bill on Tibet into law last year, paving the way to impose a visa ban on Chinese officials who deny American citizens, government officials and journalists access to Tibet, the homeland of the exiled Dalai Lama. (ANI)