Taiwan is a cornerstone of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough policy toward China, and he supports Taiwan’s security more than any other administration, according to a recent report by International Interest. In addition to measures such as arms sales to Taiwan, there is another important step Mr Trump could take: a trip to Taiwan, or sending a vice-president or secretary of state.
Relations between the US and Taiwan have moved forward rapidly since Mr Trump took office. Shortly after Mr Trump was elected, he received a phone call from Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, congratulating him on his victory. In most cases, phone calls with new leaders are routine and monotonous, but this one was unusual because of Taiwan’s special status. No other President or president-elect has spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader since 1978, when Jimmy Carter downgraded U.S. diplomatic relations with The island.
Despite his lack of enthusiasm, Mr Trump has boosted relations with Taiwan and sold the island game-changing weapons — a move that has angered China experts and the foreign policy establishment but won bipartisan support in Congress, according to the International Interest.
President Trump has dispatched Health and Human Services Secretary Azar to Taiwan, the first visit by a US cabinet secretary in decades. Mr. Wheeler, the environmental Protection Agency administrator, may soon follow suit.
Trump administration officials, led by Deputy national Security adviser Peter Pottinger, worked with Taiwanese officials to clear bureaucratic hurdles in Washington and sell weapons at a new target.
The U.S. has yet to offer high-profile arms sales to Taiwan that signal political support, such as the F-35 fighter jets, and Washington and Taipei have agreed to a modest wave of arms sales. Mr Trump has sold Taiwan F-16s, torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and, most recently, mobile anti-ship harpoon missiles. The idea is to make it more expensive for China to invade Taiwan and make it a porcupine that China cannot fully swallow. Even the M1 tanks that Washington sold to Taipei could be used against Chinese landing craft.
In a sense, Mr. Trump is simply complying with the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the executive branch to sell Taiwan weapons it needs to defend itself, notes International Interest. But previous US administrations have failed to live up to this standard, sometimes egged on by the moderate Chinese Kuomintang, which has recently been dismissed by Taiwanese voters as a near-irrelevant party. Under Mr. Trump, Washington and Taipei have worked together to take the quickest and most effective steps that would raise enough doubts in China about whether its plan to bring the island to its knees with missile strikes and incursions is really working.
Other obvious measures aimed at deterring China, such as joint military training and a joint military command (similar to those America has with Japan and South Korea), will have to wait. But one thing Trump could do is visit Taiwan, or send Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his representative.
The foreign policy establishment’s complaints alone, it said, were enough to make the visit worthwhile. They would say that he violated the one China policy by encouraging Taiwan to formally declare its independence from China, undermining Biden’s possible plan to mend relations with the United States.
‘But the real reason for this is its importance to Americans and the Taiwanese disdain for Chinese gun barrels,’ International Interest continues. If Mr Trump, Mr Pence or Mr Pompeo visit Taiwan, he will be greeted by a cheering crowd bigger than the one that greeted President John F. Kennedy in West Berlin in 1963. The outpouring of excitement and gratitude will be extraordinary. It would be the ultimate embodiment of gratitude to an anti-China President, to a vice President or secretary of state who has spoken eloquently in Hong Kong and across Asia for those who resist Beijing, and to Americans.
Similarly, Masahiro Miyazaki, a Japanese political commentator, wrote on the front page of Fuji Evening News that US President Donald Trump is afraid of losing the election and will use his remaining years in office to cut off his opponent Joe Biden’s exit. One of them is likely to be a lightning visit to Taiwan.
Miyazaki noted that trump has withdrawn from major international agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Comprehensive Progress Agreement (CPTPP) and the Paris climate agreement, and has taken intensified precautions for the rest of his term to avoid giving Biden a chance to reverse them.
Other important issues on which Mr Trump intends to leave Mr Biden with no fallback are relations with The US, which have undergone a u-turn in Mr Trump’s approach to China over the past four years. According to conservative Magazine, a former senior US administration official has argued that “the finishing touches for Trump should be a visit to Taiwan”. Miyazaki pointed out that if Trump visits Taiwan before leaving office, it will be a big event that changes modern history.
Under the Taiwan Travel Law enacted in 2018, not only senior US government officials can visit Taiwan, but also the US President. Miyazaki noted that after visits by U.S. Health Secretary Azar and Undersecretary of State Colin Kolak, there is also speculation that the next one could be a higher-level figure.
Miyazaki noted that former U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Berlin, delivered a speech before a crowd, gave Berlin citizens great courage and dealt a blow to the Soviet Union. A visit by Mr Trump to Taiwan before he leaves office would also give free Asia a boost, he said.
Miyazaki said the former U.S. official also said Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should take over trump’s final touches if he can’t come to Taiwan personally.