Closer US-Taiwan coordination needed to avoid repeating China anger post-Pelosi visit:, says analyst

  • China
  • Saturday, 19 Nov 2022

The founder of a Taiwanese think tank called for closer coordination between Washington and Taipei the next time any US lawmakers visit Taiwan, a move that is widely expected once the US Republican Party takes control of the House of Representatives in January.

While Taiwanese authorities would likely welcome such a visit, they must learn lessons from Nancy Pelosi’s trip to avoid facing even worse cross-strait tensions in the future, according to Alexander Huang, chairman and CEO of the Council on Strategic and Wargaming Studies.

“We need to work with the visiting party as well as the White House more closely,” he said at a Centre for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington on Thursday.

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“If we claim that this is the best period of the US-Taiwan relationship, I think we will have the heart and we need to sit down with both the White House and the [House] Speaker’s office to go through all the possible scenarios,” added Huang, who is also a special adviser to the chairman and director of international affairs of the Kuomintang.

The Kuomintang is Taiwan’s main opposition party to President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party.

Huang’s comments came soon after the US Republican Party clinched enough seats in the midterm elections to take control of the House of Representatives. Republicans in the chamber elected Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California to become speaker of the house when Congress reconvenes in January.

McCarthy, who won decisively against his Democratic opponent, stated several days ahead of Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August that he would “love to” visit Taiwan with a congressional delegation in tow if he were House speaker.

Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would not seek a leadership post in the House.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has said it will eventually unite the island with the mainland, by force if necessary. Beijing opposes other nations’ contacts with Taiwanese government officials.

Few countries, including the US, recognise the island as an independent state. Under official US policy, Washington does not recognise Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan but “acknowledges” that the claim exists.

Huang, as a resident of Taiwan, said he still wondered whether the new House speaker would plan to visit the self-ruled island. He also wondered how such a trip might be received by He Weidong, vice-head of the Communist Party’s central military commission and Beijing’s military drill planner in August after Pelosi’s trip.

Were another visit to take place, Taipei should weigh sending a clear signal to Beijing that a trip including the speaker would in fact happen, Huang said.

Beijing biding its time on Taiwan issue, say Chinese analysts

The composition of the delegation could affect how such a visit is received, he added, such as whether it was bipartisan or not and who would be among the travelling lawmakers.

Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Huang’s remarks. McCarthy’s office declined to respond to a query about the lawmaker’s plans for a trip to the island.

A visit by the House Speaker could lead to a pattern of the American legislative branch’s highest representative and the third-ranking official in the line of US presidential succession regularly calling on the island, cautioned John Culver of the Atlantic Council.

“If we start to allow and even encourage and even condone the high-level officials of the US government, the leader of the coequal branch of Congress, to routinely visit Taiwan, the Chinese are going to make a very cogent point that we should listen to, which is [that] the foundations of relations are now being destroyed by the United States,” said Culver.

The former senior Central Intelligence Agency officer also warned of a “real danger” that all the factors that preserved the status quo across the Taiwan Strait since the US switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 were eroding and were likely to keep eroding.

Culver further believed that the crisis communication mechanisms between Washington and Beijing were not as robust as in 2001, when a US naval aircraft and People’s Liberation Army Navy fighter jet collided in mid-air.

Republicans’ differences on being ‘tough on China’ to emerge: analysts

“Today we will have to rebuild crisis communications in the midst of crisis,” he added.

During their 3½-hour meeting in Bali, Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden that Taiwan was “the first red line” that could not be crossed in the US-China relationship.

Xi said the self-ruled island was “the core of China’s core interests, the foundation of political foundations in the China-US relationship”.

Soon after the talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Xi also told Biden that Beijing would take action if China’s Anti-Secession Law was violated.

Additional US lawmakers and political figures have shown an interest in Taiwan. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, has visited the island multiple times since leaving office.

Such visits might not precipitate a crisis, said Culver, but the “trigger” could come in the form of the policy positions of both senior Republicans and “those vying for the highest nomination” in the US government.

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