Taiwan asserts island’s sovereignty after US restates opposition to independence

Lawrence Chung, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jul 08 2021 12:30 PM

Taiwan’s foreign ministry stated on Wednesday that the self-ruled island is a sovereign state which seeks to maintain a stable relationship with mainland China and wants to safeguard its free and democratic system.

The statement follows comments by a senior Biden administration official on Tuesday.

“We support a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan. We do not support Taiwan independence,” Kurt Campbell, the White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, said in response to the question “how much love is too much?” when it came to stronger US ties with Taiwan.

The comment, at an event hosted by the Asia Society, was the first public statement on the issue by an official from the Biden administration.

It was also Campbell’s first public comment on the Taiwan issue since Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed last week at the Communuist Party’s 100th anniversary celebrations to crush any attempt to block the “reunification” of Taiwan with the mainland, which sees the island as part of its territory.

The United States has never supported Taiwanese independence since it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

“We fully recognise and understand the sensitivities involved here,” Campbell said.

“We do believe that Taiwan has a right to live in peace. We want to see its international role, particularly in areas like vaccines and issues associated with the pandemic, they should have a role to play here, they should not be shunned in the international community,” Campbell said.

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked Campbell for supporting Taiwan’s participation in international affairs.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou also thanked the US for its “timely donation” of 2.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine

She said the Biden administration has many times voiced its “rock-solid” support for Taiwan since taking office in January and has actively rallied support from its allies to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. As a reliable partner, Taiwan will closely cooperate with the US on various global issues, she added.

Ou stopped short of commenting on Campbell’s remarks on independence, but stressed: “The Republic of China [Taiwan’s official name] is a sovereign state and not a part of the People’s Republic of China and this is a fact and also a reality.”

She said Taiwan will approach cross-strait relations in a prudent and pragmatic manner, and would do all it could to defend its free and democratic system.

But Johnny Chiang, head of Taiwan’s main opposition party Kuomintang, questioned the government’s ability to handle cross-strait relations, saying they had got worse since Tsai Ing-wen’s became president in 2016.

He also said Campbell’s remarks were a wake-up call to Tsai’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party government that independence was not an option

“The DPP government must accurately assess the complexity of US China policy to avoid misjudging the overall situation,” he said.

Liu Weidong, a US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said historically it has long been known that Washington does not support Taiwan independence.

“I think Campbell was extending US goodwill to China,” he said, adding this could help facilitate bilateral talks, including a possible meeting between Biden and Xi.

But what Campbell said will not affect the US government’s cooperation with Taiwan, including its support for the island’s participation in many more international organisations, Liu noted.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang