U.S. to Send Former Government Officials to Attend Taiwan Inauguration

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    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: May 17, 2024 (1 month ago)

    In a move that could further strain U.S.-China relations, the United States has announced plans to send two former government officials to attend the inauguration of Taiwan’s newly elected president. The decision underscores Washington’s support for Taiwan’s democratic process and its commitment to strengthening ties with the island nation, despite objections from Beijing.

    The U.S. delegation will be led by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, according to sources familiar with the matter. Both Clinton and Panetta have extensive experience in U.S. foreign policy and are viewed as staunch advocates for closer relations with Taiwan.

    “The United States stands with Taiwan as it celebrates the peaceful transfer of power and reaffirms its commitment to democracy,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. “The presence of former government officials at the inauguration underscores our enduring partnership and shared values.”

    Taiwan’s presidential inauguration, scheduled for later this month, marks the culmination of a closely contested election that saw incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen secure a second term in office. Tsai’s reelection was seen as a rebuke to Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and exert pressure on the island nation.

    The decision to send former U.S. officials to the inauguration is likely to draw sharp criticism from China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province and opposes any official interactions between foreign governments and the Taiwanese leadership. Beijing has repeatedly warned against foreign interference in what it considers to be its internal affairs, and it has sought to isolate Taiwan diplomatically by pressuring countries to sever official ties with Taipei.

    “The U.S. decision to send former officials to Taiwan’s inauguration is a provocative and reckless act that undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We urge the United States to abide by the One China principle and refrain from any actions that could destabilize the region.”

    Despite China’s objections, the U.S. has continued to deepen its engagement with Taiwan in recent years, particularly in the areas of security cooperation, trade, and technology. The Trump administration pursued a policy of increased support for Taiwan, culminating in high-profile visits by senior U.S. officials and the sale of advanced military equipment to the island.

    The Biden administration has signaled a similar commitment to Taiwan, pledging to uphold the U.S.’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” while maintaining robust security assistance and diplomatic engagement. The decision to send former officials to Taiwan’s inauguration is seen as a continuation of this approach, aimed at bolstering Taiwan’s democracy and deterring Chinese aggression.

    “The United States will continue to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself and maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said a senior U.S. official. “Our commitment to Taiwan is unwavering, and we will stand with the Taiwanese people in the face of any threats or coercion.”

    The presence of former U.S. officials at Taiwan’s inauguration is expected to send a strong signal of solidarity and support, both to Taiwan and to other countries in the region that share concerns about China’s growing assertiveness. However, it also risks escalating tensions between the U.S. and China at a time when bilateral relations are already strained by disputes over trade, human rights, and territorial claims.

    As the inauguration approaches, all eyes will be on the U.S.-China relationship and the potential for further friction in the Taiwan Strait. The presence of former U.S. officials at the ceremony underscores the complex geopolitical dynamics at play and the delicate balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.