The United States is "seriously considering" to allow the Taiwanese government to change the name of its representative office in Washington to include the word "Taiwan," in a move that would anger Beijing, the Financial Times reported Saturday.
The newspaper, citing multiple people briefed on internal U.S. discussions, said Taiwan requested last March that the name of its mission in the U.S. capital be changed from "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" to "Taiwan Representative Office."
The name change would assuredly anger Communist-led mainland China, which views the democratic, self-ruled island as part of its sovereign territory and opposes other countries having any form of official exchanges with it.
The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been separately governed since they split in 1949 as a result of a civil war. Their relations have worsened since independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan's president in 2016.
The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
But under the Taiwan Relations Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979, Washington maintains substantive though unofficial relations with Taiwan and supplies the island with billions of dollars worth of arms and spare parts for its defense.
Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has continued his predecessor Donald Trump's policies of pursuing closer relations with Taiwan while taking a tougher stance on China over human rights, trade, strategic and other issues.
Meanwhile, China has tried to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, refusing to let it participate in the World Health Organization, for example, and chiseling away at the small group of nations that still maintain diplomatic ties with it.
Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, left the United Nations in 1971 when the People's Republic of China took its place, and has since been excluded from its special agencies.
It competes as "Chinese Taipei" at the Olympic Games and also uses that name to participate in the World Trade Organization -- an arrangement designed to overcome China's objections to any international recognition of its sovereignty.
According to the Financial Times, between 2017 and 2019, seven of Taipei's missions in countries without diplomatic recognition, including Nigeria, Jordan and Ecuador, had "Taiwan" or "Republic of China" forcibly removed from their names by their host countries under pressure from Beijing.
In July, Taiwan opened an office in Lithuania called the "Taiwanese Representative Office." That prompted China to recall its ambassador to Vilnius and told Lithuania to recall its ambassador to Beijing.
The newspaper said the name change request has wide support inside the National Security Council and among State Department officials in charge of Asia, though a final decision would require an executive order signed by Biden.
The U.S. leader spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping by telephone on Thursday and they may have a chance to hold their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Italy in late October.