Pompeo Lifts Limitations on U.S. Diplomatic Contacts With Taiwan - Are You in Favor?
Do you support making it easier for U.S. diplomats, servicemembers, and officials to work with Taiwan?
What’s the story?
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a week ago that the State Dept. is lifting self-imposed “contact guidelines” that place limitations on the ability of American diplomats and servicemembers to work with their Taiwanese counterparts. Pompeo said the U.S. self-imposed those restrictions on its relations with Taiwan “in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing” and added:
“The United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception. Our two democracies share the common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today’s statement recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.”
- Pompeo’s move has the potential to shake up U.S. relations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, deepening ties with Taipei and escalating tensions with Beijing, although the long-term impact will depend on the incoming Biden administration’s willingness to retain the policy. The Biden transition team hasn’t commented on the announcement.
- The self-governing democracy of Taiwan (officially known as the Republic of China) is regarded by the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a rogue island province. The communist PRC seeks to enforce a “one China principle” in which other countries acknowledge the PRC’s sovereignty over Taiwan, although the U.S. hasn’t committed to that assertion.
- As part of the PRC’s implementation of the “one China” policy, Taiwan is not represented in the United Nations, and has been excluded from other international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ― which originated in Wuhan, China ― has led to calls for Taiwan’s inclusion in such bodies, particularly given that Taiwanese health officials provided the WHO with information indicating human-to-human transmission of the virus before PRC officials did.
- The PRC has been engaged in a build-up of its military capabilities to assert dominance over disputed territories in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, in addition to the Himalayas and the enactment of a national security law that brought Hong Kong’s autonomy to an end. The Chinese Communist Party has threatened to use military force to retake Taiwan if the nation pursues its formal independence.
History of U.S.-Taiwan Relations
- The conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 left the Chinese Communist Party in control of mainland China, and the Nationalist government known as the Republic of China (ROC) in control of Taiwan.
- The U.S. and the ROC agreed to a mutual defense treaty that took effect in 1955, known as the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty. It remained in effect for more than two decades until it was annulled by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 when the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the PRC and broke off its formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
- One hundred days after terminating diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Congress and the Carter administration enacted the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 to outline the informal U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
- The Taiwan Relations Act states that efforts to determine Taiwan’s future through non-peaceful means (including boycotts or embargoes) threaten peace and security in the Western Pacific; it’s U.S. policy to maintain a capacity to resist the use of force or coercion to undermine Taiwan’s security; the U.S. will provide defensive military equipment so that Taiwan can have a sufficient self-defense capability; that decisions about defending Taiwan will be made by Congress and the president; and that references in U.S. law to foreign states and governments also apply to Taiwan.
- The TRA doesn’t require the U.S. to defend Taiwan against an attack by the PRC, but leaves open the possibility of doing so, creating a policy known as “strategic ambiguity.” The policy is designed to deter the PRC from attacking Taiwan and to deter Taiwan from taking actions that could provoke a PRC attack.
- The administration of President Ronald Reagan in 1982 made the “Six Assurances” to Taiwan, which have been a foundational element in U.S. policy toward Taiwan and the PRC ever since. In 2019 and 2020, President Donald Trump’s administration declassified Reagan’s internal presidential memorandum and State Dept. cables that included the definitive language of the Six Assurances, which were that the U.S.:
- Has not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan.
- Has not agreed to consult with the PRC on arms sales to Taiwan.
- Will not play a mediation role between Taipei and Beijing.
- Has not agreed to revise the Taiwan Relations Act.
- Has not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan.
- Will not exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into negotiations with the PRC.
- Bipartisan majorities of Congress have reaffirmed the Six Assurances and the Taiwan Relations Act on several occasions since their adoption, including through the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act and omnibus appropriations bill.
- In the wake of the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, further U.S. administrations have shaped the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.
- During a 1998 trip to China, President Bill Clinton outlined the “Three No’s” which is “that we don’t support independence for Taiwan, or ‘two China’s,’ or ‘one Taiwan, one China,’ and we don’t believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement.” Clinton’s statement didn’t diverge from existing U.S. policy, although PRC officials tend to inaccurately quote the “Three No’s” as if the U.S. were opposed to Taiwan’s independence, whereas U.S. policy is that it does not support Taiwan’s independence.
- In 2003, President George W. Bush designated Taiwan as a de facto major non-NATO ally (MNNA), a designation which grants Taiwan access to enhanced military training, certain defense technologies, surplus equipment, counterterrorism cooperation, space technology exports, and collaboration on equipment stockpiling.
— Eric Revell
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