US-Taiwan relations go into overdrive–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 ( bikhim) Twitter

Summary: This is another big show on the recent blooming US-Taiwan relationship, which has gone into overdrive. Up first, the State Department visit was low-key, but important. A Taiwan-US meeting in New York was crafty indeed. The waters around a Taiwan-US trade deal are murky. Taiwan representative to the US upgrades herself. US congressman proposes dropping “One China”, recognizing Taiwan diplomatically. Headlines had to be moved to the next show for time reasons.

State Department visit low-key, but important

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach visited Taiwan on a low-key visit that lasted less than 48 hours.
Krach is the highest-level State Department visitor since diplomatic ties were cut in 1979.
According to a press release by the U.S. Department of State, his main purpose was to attend the memorial service of former President Lee Tung-hui.
During visit, he called on Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and held a closed-door meeting with the Vice Premier and the Minister of Economic Affairs on economic matters.
On Friday evening, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) hosted a banquet for Krach at the presidential residence, which was also attended by Morris Chang (張忠謀), founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).
A presidential spokesman told reporters that Tsai’s official residence–rather than the Presidential Palace–was made the venue for the banquet because the Taiwan side hoped to “welcome good friends from the U.S. in a warm way.”
He added that by holding the banquet at Tsai’s residence, the host and the guests can have face-to-face exchanges in a more relaxed atmosphere and without time pressure.
That smells like spin.
The entire trip was low-key, with Krach not doing any press.
Being the second high-level trip in a short amount of time, it appears they are sending a message–but also chose to tone it down so China wouldn’t blow a gasket.
If that was the plan, it didn’t work–gaskets blew.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned the U.S. to “stop all forms of official exchanges with Taiwan, so as to avoid serious damage to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The Chinese foreign ministry also said China will take “legitimate countermeasures”, including targeting relative individuals, after Krach completed his visit, adding that the US must bear full responsibility for the outcome.
But of course it was firebrand mouthpiece Global Times that had the most colourful language:
“Once the People’s Liberation Army dispatches troops to reunify the island of Taiwan, the military equipment from the U.S. will be nothing but decorations,”
After making references to America’s “throwing stones” into the contentious Taiwan Strait, they went on to say “once they go too far, the stones may become torpedoes, increasing the uncertainties in the entire region, as well as the risks of drastic changes in the Taiwan Straits.”
They also tweeted threats to President Tsai, such as this one:
“Voice:Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, who pledged deeper ties with the US at a dinner for a visiting senior State Department official,is clearly playing with fire. If any act of her provacation violates the Anti-Secession Law of China, a war will be set off and Tsai will be wiped out”
They also made a series of threatening military moves, but I’ll be discussing that in an upcoming show.
KMT chair Johnny Chiang, meanwhile, criticised the DPP, accusing them of using diplomatic endeavors as party propaganda.
President Tsai referred to the visit as a “milestone”.

A Taiwan-US meeting in New York was crafty indeed

That wasn’t the only big meeting recently between Taiwan and the US, but this one was more crafty.
One day before the Krach visit, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft had lunch James K.J. Lee, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, at an outdoor restaurant on Manhattan’s East Side.
Craft was quoted in the Associated Press as saying “I’m looking to do the right thing by my president, and I feel that he has sought to strengthen and deepen this bilateral relationship with Taiwan and I want to continue that on behalf of the administration.”
Craft also said Lee, who was secretary-general in Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs until July and just arrived in New York, invited her to lunch and she accepted.
“It was a nice way for the host country to welcome him to New York and to hear about his family and his experience, and obviously his respect and admiration for the Chinese people” as well as the “many, many innovations in technology … that Taiwan has to offer the world.”
Hrm, it is highly unlikely he expressed his “respect and admiration for the Chinese people”, which smells more like Craft herself projecting the image of Taiwanese being ethnic “Chinese” on him.
What is interesting about this meeting, aside from being first of its kind, is the stagecraft.
It was pointed out to me that the whole thing was carefully set up.
AP was clearly invited, with photographers.
And the reporter, Edith M. Lederer, is legendary, assuring it will get attention.
It’s a shame the meeting wasn’t held on U.N. grounds, but they probably wouldn’t have let him in without Chinese ID.

The waters around a Taiwan-US trade deal are murky

On the surface, all the stars seem to be lining up for a Taiwan-US trade deal of some kind.
The US State Department, National Security Council, both houses of Congress and others are all actively promoting a deal.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham Taipei) and the Arlington, Virginia-based US-Taiwan Business Council also announced they had formed a coalition to push for a bilateral trade agreement (BTA) between Taiwan and the US.
The problem is the one key person who is in charge, the US Trade Representative and his department, appear to be dragging their heels.
The following is from a Taipei Times article entitled “Pork issue derails talks: source”
“The US Department of State confirmed the delegation’s schedule on Wednesday, which was late compared with the announcement of the schedule for US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s visit last month, which was issued four days prior to his arrival.
The late confirmation could be attributed to a disagreement between the department and the Office of the US Trade Representative, an official said on condition of anonymity on Thursday.
While Taiwan hoped to quickly begin negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement, after Washington announced the dialogue, the trade body — the top government body overseeing the US’ trade negotiations — expressed concerns, the official said.
Although President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration on Aug. 28 announced it would lift import restrictions on US pork containing a certain amount of ractopamine, Taiwan has a record of such promises, but has not delivered, undermining bilateral trust, the official said.
Furthermore, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has been conducting campaigns describing US pork containing ractopamine as “poisonous” while pushing for a public referendum to overturn the decision on pork imports, the official said.
As a result, the trade body hoped to slow other trade negotiations with Taiwan, given that “the current promise may not necessarily be fulfilled,” the official said.
The official quoted a peer who had complained that the KMT’s remarks about US pork bothered some in Washington and added that when KMT officials visited the US, “they were eating exactly that US pork.””
The key line is “the current promise may not necessarily be fulfilled.”
The legislature has decided to review the President’s administrative orders, and nearly 70% of the public opposes US pork imports.
So opposition, led by the KMT, has some legs.
As I mentioned more than once, President Tsai is going to have to expend considerable political capital to succeed in pulling this off.

Taiwan representative to the US upgrades herself

The Taiwan representative to the US has upgraded herself in status to “Taiwan Ambassador to the US”–at least on Twitter.
She pointed out that it was her personal Twitter account, not an official one, and that that is what everyone refers to her as.
She’s not alone, recently German and Japanese media referred to the Taiwanese representatives there as “ambassador.”
Of course, our favourite Chinese mouthpiece Global Times was thrilled with her choice:
“That Hsiao changed her title from “representative” to “ambassador” is an act of scam.
Some officials in the US State Department may already know it, but such behavior will not be authorized by the US leadership.
This tactic of “salami slicing” is something Taiwan has always been using.
As long as the US does not object, such moves will become routine or even what they call a “diplomatic breakthrough.””

US congressman proposes dropping “One China”, recognizing Taiwan diplomatically

US Congressman Tom Tiffany dropped a bombshell in the House of Representatives.
This is from his website:
“U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (WI-07) introduced legislation calling for the U.S. to resume formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and end the outdated and counter-productive “One China Policy.”
The bill also directs the U.S. administration to support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations, and to initiate negotiations with Taipei on crafting a bilateral, U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.
“For more than 40 years, American presidents of both political parties have repeated Beijing’s bogus lie that Taiwan is part of Communist China – despite the objective reality that it is not,” said Tiffany. “It is long past time that America consigned the ‘One China Policy’ to the dustbin of history.””
He went on to say “The U.S. still lacks formal ties with Taiwan, inexplicably treating the island’s democratically elected government the same way it treats brutal regimes in North Korea and Iran from a U.S. diplomatic relations perspective – and in a category worse than that of Cuba’s dictatorship, which President Obama and Vice President Biden recognized during their second term.”
He closes on ““America doesn’t need a permission slip from the Chinese Communist Party to talk to its friends and partners around the world,” added Tiffany. “Now is the time for America to stop parroting Beijing’s ‘One China’ fantasy, and for U.S. policy to reflect the reality that Taiwan is a free, democratic and independent country.”
“If the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain can normalize relations with Israel, certainly we can formalize our enduring friendship with Taiwan,” Tiffany concluded.”
This sounds great, but a few words of caution.
First, this is a “sense of Congress” non-binding bill, known as a concurrent resolution.
Second, they are still looking for co-sponsors, and it is unlikely to move anywhere until a future House session.
Then, he’s going to have to find someone willing to put forward something in the Senate…then get it passed in both houses and finally signed by the president.
That’s a long, uphill battle.
However, the very “longness” of this path may be a good thing–relations with China seem to be getting continuously worse.
And the worse it gets, the more support this will get.
Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, however, it is quite a statement–and gets people to ask the basic question: Why are we kowtowing to the Chinese Communist line in the face of the obvious reality that Taiwan is a friendly, democratic nation?
However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) in an interview with NPR said “We are not seeking full diplomatic relations with the United States at this moment.”
“But, certainly, there’s a lot of room for us to explore how to strengthen the relations between Taiwan and the United States, and we have been advocating that Taiwan and the United States should further strengthen the economic relations, trade relations, political relations, even security relations.”
In short, the Tsai administration, as usual, is being cautious.
The response from that journalistic bastion of mouthpiece excellence Global Times had, I thought, an interesting and illuminating response.
“The recent appeal of US Congressman Tom Tiffany to establish US-Taiwan diplomatic relations will never come true.
Some anti-China politicians in the US, especially members of Congress, lack basic diplomatic and political knowledge about international affairs.
Nobody, not even Trump, would dare to make such a decision because that will lead to the destruction of China-US relations, or even a continuing conflict between China and the US.
It’s a cost and a risk that no US president or politician is willing to take.”
I think they might be right in the short term at least.
It continues:
“After November’s presidential election, “diplomatic” interaction between the island of Taiwan and the US is likely to be seen as routine on both sides.
If Trump is reelected, the possibility of further escalation cannot be ruled out.
If Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins, he might be more restrained.
Supporting the island of Taiwan has already become the political correctness in the US system.
Playing the Taiwan card, cracking down on the Chinese mainland and strengthening US-the island of Taiwan relations, especially in diplomacy, will remain as the established policy in the US, no matter who takes office.”
That is very interesting.
They clearly now recognize the situation has changed, probably permanently.
And they’re resigned to the fact.

Image courtesy of Hsiao Bi-khim’s Twitter

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