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US is still affirming Taiwan’s sovereignty

    By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2024.4.10

Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) went to China this month to pay obeisance, adding to the perception of him “loving China and opposing the US.” Meanwhile, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chair Laura Rosenberger made a last-minute trip to Taiwan from March 31 to last Saturday, yet during her stay, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) was nowhere to be found. Did he go to Washington to report that something had happened within the KMT?

Signed in 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which settled affairs in the Pacific after World War II, never designated who would possess sovereignty over Taiwan and Penghu after Japan relinquished ownership. This was handed over to the US from Japan after World War II. The US passed Taiwan to Chinese Nationalist hands in a trusteeship framework, though Taiwan’s ultimate fate rested in US hands. The Taiwan Relations Act is a US domestic law. The act has a higher status than an international treaty and there is a reason for that.

Ma is attempting to challenge this position. When he was elected president, he made overtures to the US, saying he would not do anything to upset the apple cart. In the disastrous aftermath of Typhoon Morakot during the second year of his presidency, he outright refused offers of US military aid, but secretly wanted to welcome the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) People’s Liberation Army to come to Taiwan to help with “rescue efforts.”

After Washington called out his behavior, Ma feigned ignorance and handed the issue to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to smooth over. Then-deputy foreign minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) took the fall and resigned. Then-foreign minister Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) also resigned.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been in office for eight years and Taiwan-US relations under her administration have been developing along the right path. In January’s elections, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) gained a slight majority in the legislature. Just a few months later, Ma has gone to China.

In these past eight years, China has continuously harmed Taiwan’s “status quo” and in response, the US has continued raising the profile of Taiwan-US relations. Paramount among its responses is the US’ response to China’s direct military threats. In addition to arms sales, the US has expanded its deployment presence in Taiwan.

On Feb. 24, US Representative Mike Gallagher, chairman of the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the CCP, wrote a letter to SpaceX founder Elon Musk — leaked by Forbes magazine — which asked SpaceX to provide the use of Starshield satellite Internet (a military-specific version of Starlink) to US military personnel in Taiwan as a part of SpaceX’s contracts with the US government. “Ensuring robust communications networks for US military personnel on and around Taiwan is paramount for safeguarding US interests in the Indo-Pacific region,” Gallagher wrote.

The US is following through with its National Defense Authorization Act passed last year to kickstart major military cooperation with Taiwan. US military affairs Web site SOFREP reported that the US has Army Green Berets special forces personnel deployed in Taiwan, where they will carry out training exercises as advisers.

US military advisers in Taiwan have increased from about a dozen to a couple hundred. If the CCP continues to change the “status quo,” perhaps the US might increase this number to several thousand. For Taiwan, this serves as a guiding compass. If the KMT wants to sidle up to the CCP and cause mayhem, perhaps they ought to sober up to reality.

Paul Lin is a Taipei-based political commentator.

Translated by Tim Smith

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