A senior US diplomat in Taiwan on Thursday said the US no longer views the issue of Taiwan as a strain on US-China relations but instead sees the island as an opportunity to counter Beijing.
Since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979, the US had always provided weapons to Taiwan, but in recent years it has taken unprecedented steps to strengthen ties with the island.
Raymond Greene, the deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto US embassy, pointed out the change in the US approach to Taiwan. He said when he first worked at the AIT 19 years ago, “everything we did related back to cross-Strait issues and how Taiwan fit into the US-China relationship.”
“In contrast, these past three years, our efforts have been overwhelmingly focused on deepening the bilateral US-Taiwan relationship,” he said. The Trump administration began strengthening ties with Taiwan, and those efforts are being continued by the Biden administration.
“This reflects a fundamental change in the US-Taiwan relationship. The United States no longer sees Taiwan as a ‘problem’ in our relations with China, we see it as an opportunity to advance our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Greene said. A “free and open Indo-Pacific” is a term US officials use that essentially means a region free of Chinese influence, which is a tall order considering Beijing is a regional power.
US diplomatic efforts in Taiwan are coupled with an increased US military presence in the region. On Tuesday, a US warship steamed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, the sixth such passage this year. The US is also maintaining an almost-regular aircraft carrier presence in the region, stoking tensions, and risking close encounters with China’s military.