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TAIPEI: Taiwan has set up a trade office in Guyana, officials announced on Thursday, a step the United States called a “milestone” as the island tries to push back against China’s campaign to keep it isolated.

Taipei said it signed an agreement with the South American country last month to set up the Taiwan Office.

“This milestone will benefit both partners and advance security, democratic values and prosperity in the region,” Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, wrote on Twitter.

“Closer ties with Taiwan will advance cooperation and development in Guyana on the basis of shared democratic values, transparency, and mutual respect,” the US Embassy in Guyana said in a statement.

Only 15 countries officially recognise Taiwan over China, which sees the democratic, self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if needed.

Beijing has ramped up military pressure and snatched seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, as she refused to acknowledge its stance that the island belongs to “one China”.

China also keeps Taiwan locked out of international bodies such as the World Health Organization.