Taiwan must continue pushing envelope on U.S. interactions: analysts

Taipei-New U.S. guidelines expanding official contacts with Taiwan may be a positive step, but Taiwan should still try to break down limits on bilateral interactions that stem from Washington’s one-China policy, foreign affairs analysts in Taiwan said Saturday.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that it had issued new guidelines to “liberalize” government contacts with Taiwan, which it said aimed to “encourage engagement…that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.”

Though they were not made public, the guidelines will reportedly allow U.S. officials to meet with their Taiwan counterparts in U.S. federal buildings and at Taiwan’s representative offices in the U.S., but prohibit them from attending celebrations of Double Ten National Day and other Taiwanese holidays.

While these guidelines constitute “a big difference” from the past, in which meetings between American and Taiwanese officials were often informal and low-key, the United States’ one-China policy remains unchanged, said Yen Chen-shen (???), adjunct researcher at National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) Institute of International Relations.

According to Yen, easing limits on official contacts with Taiwan will bolster U.S. President Joe Biden’s position in negotiations with China.

Taiwan, meanwhile, will have to judge the new guidelines based on whether they lead to more high-level contacts, or whether U.S. officials attend events at Twin Oaks, he said, referring to the former residence of Taiwanese ambassadors to the U.S., which is now used for official functions.

Lo Chih-cheng (???), a lawmaker with Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), argued that regardless of the new guidelines, Taiwan must continue pushing back against “unnecessary” restrictions on interactions with the U.S. that stem from the latter’s one-China policy.

He believed, however, that the move does highlight Taiwan’s increasingly important role, from a political, military and economic standpoint, in the United States’ strategic approach to China and the Asia Pacific.

Michael Kau (???), who served as deputy foreign minister under former DPP President Chen Shui-bian (???), said the announcement showed that the U.S. was moving from strategic ambiguity to clarity in its approach to Taiwan, amid the emerging state of “superpower competition” with China.

Meanwhile, Huang Kwei-bo (???), deputy secretary-general of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), said the new guidelines were an attempt to expand contacts with Taiwan while leaving in place restrictions that relate to sensitive issues like sovereignty.

This dual-pronged approach reflects Washington’s desire to strengthen ties with Taiwan, but in a way that will not act as a barrier to its relations with China, he said.

While the updated U.S. guidelines were welcomed by Taiwan, it is unclear how much of a departure they represent from the policy set by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the final days of the Trump administration, which verbally lifted nearly all restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan.

A diplomatic source told CNA on Friday that while both Pompeo and Secretary of State Antony Blinken favor expanding engagement with Taiwan, the new administration wanted some form of written guidance in place, as some federal officials had expressed uncertainty about what kinds of interactions were allowed.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel