Tuesday, December 13, 2011

US has not pivoted toward Taiwan

The idea that Washington has shifted its strategy on Taiwan is mere wishful thinking

There has been no shortage of optimism in recent weeks over visits to Taiwan by relatively senior US officials, with some pundits pointing to signs of a shift in US policy that would place greater emphasis on US-Taiwan ties.

The excitement stems from visits by US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, who arrived yesterday on a three-day visit, and that of US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah earlier this month. As media have noted, Poneman will be the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan since 2000.

Commenting on the visit on Thursday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman James Chang (章計平) said this not only proved the solidity of Taiwan-US relations, but also showed that the US was honoring its commitment to send high-ranking officials, words echoed by Edward Chen (陳一新), a US studies specialist at Tamkang University, who told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “By sending senior officials to visit Taiwan, the US is assuring us it will not abandon Taiwan.”

However, the fact remains that no Cabinet-level US official has visited Taiwan since the administration of former US president Bill Clinton, making, in some critics’ view, the visits more theater than substance.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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