The Biden administration is preparing to issue guidelines that will make it easier for U.S. diplomats to meet Taiwanese officials by adopting some of the changes introduced by Donald Trump, in a move that threatens to provoke China.
In one of his latest acts, Trump in January significantly eased the constraints that had made it difficult for U.S. diplomats to hold such meetings, and experts were waiting to see if Joe Biden would turn the tide.
But the United States is preparing guidelines that would keep many of Trump’s changes in place, according to people briefed on the new policy. The limits on contacts between U.S. diplomats and Taiwanese officials had been in effect for decades until Trump relaxed them.
A person familiar with the guidelines said she would focus on encouraging U.S. officials to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts rather than placing limits on contact. A second person said most of the restrictions on interactions “between US and Taiwanese diplomats.” . . will disappear “.
The demonstration of support for Taiwan is the latest manifestation of Biden’s increasingly harsh stance on China. A senior official told the Financial Times last week that his administration feared China was flirting with Taiwan’s takeover.
The original guidelines that made it more difficult to hold such meetings were introduced after the United States changed diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. However, in January, Mike Pompeo, then Secretary of State, canceled many restrictions after the passage by Congress of the Taiwan Insurance Act, which required a review within 180 days.
At his confirmation hearing in January, Antony Blinken, now Secretary of State, said he wanted to create “more space for contact” with Taiwanese officials.
In a move that underscored Biden’s tougher approach to China, John Hennessey-Niland, US envoy to Palau in the Western Pacific, visited Taiwan with the Palau president on Monday – a very unusual visit with the leader of one of the 15 countries that recognizes Taipei. on Beijing.
China responded by sending 10 fighter jets to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday, its second major intrusion in four days.
The visit with the President of Palau is just one example of how Biden provides Taiwan with more public support than when he was vice president in the Obama administration. In January, Biden invited Hsiao Bi-khim to become the first Taiwanese ambassador to the United States to attend a presidential inauguration.
And Joe Young, acting U.S. Ambassador to Japan, recently welcomed his Taiwanese counterpart to his Tokyo residence and announced the visit on Twitter.
After Paraguay – which like Palau recognizes Taipei – recently said China offered to provide Covid-19 vaccines in return for severing ties with Taipei, Blinken called on the president of the South American nation to highlight the importance of working with democratic partners like Taiwan.
A US official said the appeal, which has been made public, was a deliberate effort to provide public support to countries that still recognize Taiwan.
“Paraguay is at stake, the Chinese are trying to poach it,” said Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwanese expert at the Center for International and Strategic Studies. “I don’t think Palau is in danger at the moment, but this visit is another sign of US support for Taiwan and the retention of its remaining 15 allies.”
Elizabeth Larus of the University of Mary Washington said Biden had taken a “firmer posture” on China than most experts had expected, but had also benefited from the actions Trump took. “Much of the heavy lifting in Taiwan has already been done for him.”
Derek Grossman of the Rand Corporation said: “The idea was that the Biden administration would come in and stand a bit in Taiwan and try to achieve some sort of ‘reset’ with Beijing. This does not happen. “
The second person familiar with the policy change pointed out that even if Biden would not revert to pre-Trump contact guidelines, there would still be limits, including on the display of the Taiwanese flag at any meeting. “Anything relating to sovereignty is prohibited,” they added.
Blinken recently described Taiwan as a “country” in congressional testimony, even though the United States has a “one-China policy” under which it recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China.
Shelley Rigger, a Taiwanese expert at Davidson College, said: “Blinken is very professional and I don’t think they are in the news, [so] it’s potentially more meaningful and more effort to tell China we’re not just going to use your vocabulary. “
When asked if the Biden administration decided to refer to Taiwan as a country, the State Department said the United States will continue to engage with Taiwan “in accordance with our long-standing policy. “From one China”.
Over the past two months, the United States has also sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait to send a message to Beijing. The Pentagon also conducted a rare dual aircraft carrier exercise in the South China Sea. And last week, the United States and Taiwan signed an agreement that will lead to increased cooperation between their coast guards.