The United States said on Monday that it was establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue with Taiwan, an initiative it said was aimed at strengthening ties with Taipei and supporting it in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.
Washington also said it had declassified six Reagan-era security assurances given to Taiwan, a move analysts said appeared intended to show further support for Taipei.
Stilwell said the US is intensifying support to the island because of the “increasing threat posed by Beijing to peace and stability in the region” and its “deepening ties of friendship, trade, and productivity” with Taiwan.
Washington broke off formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing, but the US is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself and is the main arms supplier to the island. The administration of current US President Donald Trump has made strengthening its support for the island a priority and has also boosted weapons and equipment sales.
Stilwell told a virtual forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation that the latest US moves were not a policy shift, but part of a set of “significant adjustments” within Washington’s long-standing “one-China” policy.
“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalize Taiwan,” Stilwell said.
“With a population of 23 million, Taiwan continues to punch above its weight in economics as well as governance, thereby making the world a better place.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks for the show of support at a time when it said China was using military intimidation to damage peace and stability near Taiwan and said it would continue to strengthen its defense capabilities.
Daniel Russel, a predecessor of Stilwell until early in the Trump administration, said the “Six Assurances” made to Taipei by the Reagan administration in 1982 had been a “loosely kept secret” at best.
This is quite a speech on Taiwan by @USAsiaPacific— Julian Ku 古舉倫 (@julianku) August 31, 2020
Chief Stilwell. It says almost everything Taipei would want the US to say: E.g.: China is the problem, not Taiwan; Taiwan needs more international room. US will keep selling arms to Taiwan. https://t.co/lC56WurlXV
He said the decision to publish them looked like a compromise response to pressure from administration hawks to abandon “strategic ambiguity” – a long-standing policy of withholding a clear-cut US commitment to defend Taiwan while still showing sufficient support to deter any Chinese military adventurism.