Highest-level US visit to Taiwan since ‘79–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

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Summary: A businessman has been charged with violating the National Security Act. KMT youth propose major labour changes, and a 32-hour workweek. Taiwan’s drone fleet is taking off. The highest-level delegation from the US since 1979 shows promise. Two more foreign delegations show increasing support.

Headlines

The average temperature in Taiwan last month hit 30.2 degrees Celsius, the highest on record since the country began keeping climate records in 1947, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said Saturday.
Taiwan had already seen record high average temperatures for May and June, and the heat persisted into July due to a lingering high pressure system, lack of rain and the absence of typhoons.

The average life expectancy in Taiwan hit a new high of 80.9 years in 2019, according to the Ministry of the Interior (MOI).
Last year, the average life expectancy of men was 77.7 and that of women 84.2 years, both record high figures.

Xiulin Township’s (秀林) Truku People’s Hunting Association awarded 294 hunter certificates to Indigenous hunters in Hualien County, a first step toward self-managed hunting by local Indigenous villages.
The association follows traditional hunting rules, passes on hunting skills and experience to the next generation, and works with academics and government officials on the sustainability of the natural environment.

Of all the land that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) acquired following its retreat to Taiwan in 1949, 85 percent was transferred to the party free of charge, while 11 percent was via transactions, according to the Cabinet’s Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.
Of the 11 percent, 68 percent was sold to the party at the price it demanded, with no market competition involved.

In the wake of the resignation of NPP party chair Hsu Yong-ming (徐永明) over allegations of involvement in the SOGO bribery scandal, current acting chair–and former party chair–Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) has announced that he is not running for the position permanently.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) on Thursday announced that citizens applying for a Taiwan passport for the first time will be able to do so at their nearest household registration office nationwide starting Aug. 11.
Furthermore, first-time applicants who want to use the automatic e-Gate clearance system at Taiwan’s airports can enroll for the service at the same time.

The Navy held a launch ceremony for Taiwan’s first domestically-built rapid mine-laying ship as well as a keel-laying ceremony for the second of four minelayers that are part of the government’s indigenous ship-building project.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has removed Japan from the list of countries classified as low or medium-risk for COVID-19 whose nationals are eligible for shortened quarantine periods in Taiwan.

In related news, the United States on Thursday lifted an advisory that had warned its citizens against all international travel, and it placed Taiwan on a list of 13 destinations where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is “very low.”

There were 11,429 convenience stores in Taiwan at of the end of 2019, up 524, or 4.81 percent, from a year earlier, the fastest annual growth rate since 2006.

A 5G Policy Forum will be held on Aug. 26 at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei to discuss the deepening of U.S.-Taiwan information security, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced on its Facebook page.

The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine will be tightening enforcement of the rules of the Plant Protection and Quarantine Act after a string of unsolicited packages of seeds from China were received recently in Taiwan.

A businessman has been charged with violating the National Security Act
Taipei District Prosecutors Office on Wednesday charged a Taiwanese businessman with violating the National Security Act, for his alleged work on behalf of Chinese intelligence, specifically arranging meetings with officials from Taiwan’s government and military.
Prosecutors alleged that Huang was recruited to arrange meetings with Taiwanese government and military personnel, with the goal of helping collect information on Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and the Falun Gong religious movement.

KMT youth propose major labour changes, 32-hour workweek

Students at the KMT Institute of Revolutionary Practice yesterday presented proposals for labour policy, including raising the monthly minimum wage to NT$32,000 (US$1,084).
Their report proposes regular adjustments to workers’ salaries every year, starting next year.
They suggested a “three two plan” — raising the minimum monthly wage to NT$32,000 and the minimum hourly wage to NT$200 in two stages over three years.
The plan also recommends gradual adjustments to working hours starting next year.
Technological advancements should make it possible to reduce employees’ working hours, the students said.
Their plan proposes that weekly working hours be lowered to 32 hours by 2032.
The students said they believe that commuting times should be included in working hours, with an upper limit to be set.
Citing an actuarial report on the labour insurance program conducted last year by the ministry, the students also called on the government to explain how it plans to handle the nearly NT$10 trillion of “hidden” debt in the program, which they said is expected to go bankrupt by 2026.
This is mostly populist stuff, but it does show the KMT is finally trying to cultivate some younger talent.

Taiwan’s drone fleet is taking off

Reuters is reporting the United States is negotiating the sale of at least four sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time, according to six U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations, aircraft that can keep watch over huge swathes of sea and land.
Six US sources!?
Not exactly a secretive bunch, apparently.
The SeaGuardian surveillance drones have a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km), far greater than the 160-mile range of Taiwan’s current fleet of drones, potentially giving the island greater capacity to peer into China, observing its air force, missiles and other facilities.
While the State Department tacitly authorized the sale of the unmanned aerial vehicles, two of the people said, it is not known whether the U.S. officials have approved exporting the drones with weapons attached.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan military said Friday the development of its domestically made “Teng Yun” (Cloud Rider, 騰雲) drone is on schedule.

High-level delegation from the US shows promise

US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979.
They said they are here to discuss the pandemic…and stuff.
The talks themselves may be useful, but it’s really the politics around them that are the really big story.
The statement from the HHS is full of interesting things, such as quoting Secretary Azar as saying “I look forward to conveying President Trump’s support for Taiwan’s global health leadership and underscoring our shared belief that free and democratic societies are the best model for protecting and promoting health.”
Obviously, that, and some other comments in the statement, are a dig at China, which has both sought to portray itself as a model for handling the pandemic, and to undermine Taiwan’s response, which makes China’s model look bad.
The statement also read:
“In 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, and this visit is part of America’s policy of sending high-level U.S. officials to Taiwan to reaffirm the U.S.-Taiwan friendship, pursue shared interests, and celebrate the shared values that bond the United States and Taiwan to the international family of democracies.”
The Taiwan Travel Act was of course passed by Congress with strong support.
This is the first strong indication that the administration intends to abide by it.
The China propaganda mouthpiece Global Times had this to say:
“Potential provocations from the US could immediately escalate tensions with China, and the danger of a military conflict will increase.
If the US ignores China’s warning and firm stance on its sovereignty over the island, a war in the region would be inevitable, analysts said.
The separatist authority on the island is willing to play the most loyal card for the US, and would love to cooperate with the US to provoke the mainland, and this could eventually cross the bottom line set by the mainland, which would make a military conflict more and more likely to happen, analysts added.”
Talking about war over a cabinet member devoted to health issues seems a bit over the top, but the article gets to the core of their worry in the first sentence:
“The US health secretary’s scheduled visit to the island of Taiwan in a few days, which marks the highest level visit by a US official in more than four decades, shows that Washington is likely to send more officials from sensitive departments, such as foreign affairs and defense, to visit the island, Chinese mainland experts said.”
Yes, foreign affairs and defence secretaries visiting could be very consequential.
With that in mind, a later report in AFP stated that Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe held a 90-minute call with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in which from the description he bullied and cajoled Esper with comments like “stop erroneous words and deeds” and “avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation”.
But Esper told Wei that China was undertaking destabilizing activity, according to the Pentagon.
“The secretary called for greater PRC transparency on COVID, expressed concerns about PRC destabilizing activity in the vicinity of Taiwan in the South China Sea and called on the PRC to honor international obligations,” said a Defense Department spokesman.
In short, he was telling Wei “bite me”.
The US side has been taking small steps, so-called salami-slicing, to increase ties with Taiwan, including meeting Taiwan Representative Hsiao Bi-khim on official State Department property and openly referring to Taiwan as a country.

Two more foreign delegations show increasing support

Two more delegations also are showing increased international support for Taiwan.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori will fly to Taipei on Sunday with a parliamentary delegation to pay tribute to former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
Mori, Japan’s prime minister from 2000-2001, will head the delegation that will include Diet members and others, according to the Sino-Japanese Parliamentary Group, which organized the visit together with the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association.

Then later in the month, Miloš Vystrčil, president of the Senate of the Czech Republic, said his plans to lead a delegation to Taiwan later this month reflect a belief in the importance of values, not only in foreign policy but as a necessary condition for achieving economic prosperity.
The delegation, which will be comprised of some 90 Czech business leaders, scientists and senators, will visit Taiwan between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4 to promote stronger economic and technological ties between the two countries.

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Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Facebook page

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