Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - Page 8 News List

The US-Taiwan military charade

By Richard Halloran

“They need to know more than how the on/off switch works,” a US official said.

The political sensitivities surrounding almost every aspect of US relations with Taiwan have led to a strange facade. The US is represented in Taipei by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a quasi-embassy staffed by 500 US Department of State diplomats and employees who have non-diplomatic titles such as “director” instead of “ambassador.”

Military attaches posted to American Institute in Taiwan wear civilian clothes and have innocuous titles. US warships do not make port calls and military aircraft do not land there except on humanitarian missions. Unlike US embassies everywhere else, the AIT does not fly the US flag, which irritates some US visitors.

Sometimes this gets to be almost comical as the US military in Hawaii scrambles to make sure visitors from Taiwan and China do not bump into each other when they are in Honolulu at the same time.

Richard Halloran is a commentator based in Hawaii.

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