Taiwan’s main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), is pushing the government of President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to re-establish diplomatic ties with Washington.
The KMT caucus presented the motion in Taiwan’s legislature on Tuesday. President Tsai and the DPP have taken steps to increase ties with the US, but the proposal by the KMT is seen as more radical than any actions the ruling party has taken.
Some DPP officials praised the KMT for introducing the motion, while others dismissed it as a trick to outflank President Tsai on US relations and independence from mainland China. “The KMT must be insane. Just days ago, it said restoring ties with the US would only seriously provoke the Chinese Communists, and now they are asking the government to do it,” DPP legislature member Hsu Chih-chieh said.
A spokesman for President Tsai said the office respected the KMT’s move but urged a slower approach to increase ties with Washington. “What is more important at the present stage is to develop US-Taiwan relations on a step-by-step basis so that we can continue to deepen our defense, trade, political and other cooperation relation,” spokesman Xavier Chang said.
The KMT proposal came during the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, which was held virtually on Monday and Tuesday. During the event, Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister Chang Guan-chung appealed to the US to help boost the island’s military.
Since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, it has sold weapons to the Taipei to discourage Beijing from forcibly reunifying the island with the mainland. The Trump administration has continued the tradition of arming Taiwan and has taken steps to increase ties with the island in other ways.
President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law in 2018, which paved the way for recent high-level visits from US officials. In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, making him the highest-level US official to travel to the island since 1979. A September visit from US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach sparked a series of flights from Chinese military aircraft near Taiwan’s airspace.
Taiwan recorded multiple instances of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flying aircraft over the median line, an informal line in the Taiwan Strait that Beijing usually avoids crossing. Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Monday that its fighter jets responded to 4,132 times to incursions from PLA warplanes, compared to 1,798 in all of 2019.