U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will visit Taiwan “in the coming days,” a move that is sure to anger China. Secretary Azar will become the highest-ranking U.S. cabinet member to visit the self-ruled island since 1979, when Washington formally switched diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing. He will also be the first cabinet-level official to visit Taiwan since then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy visited in 2014. In a statement released late Tuesday, the agency said Azar’s “historic visit  will strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership and enhance U.S-Taiwan cooperation to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.” Azar praised Taiwan’s “remarkable success battling COVID-19 as a free and transparent democratic society.” Azar will hold talks with his Taiwanese counterparts and Taiwan health experts about the island’s COVID-19 response and its role as a reliable global supplier of medical equipment and critical technology.   Azar held a rare telephone conference back in April with his Taiwan counterpart, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. His planned visit is the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to build stronger ties with Taiwan, which broke away from China in 1949 after Chaing Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces settled on the island when they were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong’s Communist forces. China considers the self-ruled island a breakaway province and has vowed to annex the island by any means necessary, including a military invasion. Taiwan has had surprising success in limiting the coronavirus outbreak to just 476 confirmed cases and seven deaths. But Taiwan is neither a member of the World Health Organization nor the United Nations because of opposition from Beijing.