Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the United States is lifting all communication restrictions imposed by the State Department on Taiwan in an attempt to end the political discrimination that has been promoted against the island.
Pompeo’s new directive means that all government offices in Washington will be able to communicate with their counterparts in Taipei without any limits. Until the announcement, government offices were required to follow protocols established by the State Department in order not to affect relations with the Chinese regime.
In addition, the U.S. also rescinded “any and all sections of the Foreign Relations Manual or the Foreign Affairs Manual.” In this case, Pompeo’s new directive means that relations with Taiwan will be through the American Institute on Taiwan (AIT-ITA), as stipulated in the Law on Relations with the island. Here the United States does not recognize any authority from Beijing over Taiwan.
“Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and reliable partner of the United States, and yet for several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts.”Mike Pompeo
Implications of the announcement
The Trump Administration’s decision will mean any member of the government visiting Taiwan or establishing contacts for any type of exchange or negotiation in official facilities as is the case with other countries that the United States recognizes.
Taiwanese Foreign Secretary Joseph Wu thanked Pompeo for lifting restrictions that “unnecessarily limited our commitments in recent years” and welcomed the bipartisan commitment in Congress, but made it clear that he expects the incoming administration to provide similar support.
Although in 2018 the United States had already enacted a law allowing government officials to maintain direct contact with Taipei, Pompeo’s decision could lead to an increase in visits to Taiwan.
The United States does not officially recognize Taiwan, but agreements signed between Washington and Taipei oblige them to provide the island with the economic and military means to defend itself in case Beijing decides to attack.
In 2020 the Trump Administration approved arms sales to Taiwan for an estimated $18 billion, and in 2021 it included the island in the budget bill, for investments in trade, technology development and military support.
Reuters reported that the CCP condemned the United States arguing that “no one could prevent the reunification of the country. In addition, the local Chinese pro-regime press has announced that the United States “is posing all kinds of extreme military scenarios, including an invasion of the island by the Chinese army.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan
Pompeo’s statement on lifting restrictions on Taiwan came after announcing to the press that Kelly Craft, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will travel to Taipei in the second week of January 2021.
Some details of the agenda that the American diplomat will carry out in Taiwan are “to promote the island in the international space and to give a speech on January 14, 2020 at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs about the impressive contributions of the Taiwanese government to the global community and the importance of a broad and meaningful participation of the island in international organizations,” reported Le Monde.
The visit elicited a strong response from the CCP. Beijing threatened to make “Washington pay a high price,” and the state media disagreed with America’s supposed violation of Chinese sovereignty. For politicians and analysts, the measures taken by Trump would have real strength if continued by the Biden administration.
Tension in the strait
Since Biden’s election, uncertainty has grown that the United States, led by the Democrats, could terminate the agreements between the Trump and Taipei Administrations, and instead follow the course suggested by then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who proposed handing over Taiwan to Beijing.
Some analysts see Trump’s latest approaches as a move to manipulate Beijing and not really to support the island. In both cases there are fears of a strong reaction from the CCP. Tensions are rising in the midst of the discussion where, according to a 2018 survey by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, 70 percent of Taiwanese would be willing to go to war against the Communist army.
Nationalism and pro-independence sentiment have become stronger than ever in Taiwan over recent years as a result of China’s threats to the island and attacks on the supposedly autonomous region of Hong Kong. There are also increasingly positive feelings towards the U.S. over their steadfast protection for the island, which is constantly under threat of Chinese invasion.