The US yesterday confirmed that it will post military officers to its mission in Taipei for the first time since 1979, when the US switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokeswoman Dana Shell Smith confirmed the Jane's Defence Weekly report that Washington will start posting active-duty military officers to the AIT.
In a news release, Dana said the AIT has been hiring retired US military officers as contractors to coordinate defense assistance to Taiwan.
"Non-uniformed, active-duty military and Department of Defense civilian personnel will now replace these contractors. They are being detailed to AIT as part of the normal rotation of personnel," she said.
"This is a personnel matter ... Our policy towards Taiwan has not changed," she said.
China voiced strong opposition yesterday to the development, saying the move violated Sino-US agreements.
Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (
"Whatever excuse or method the US side uses to develop military relations with Taiwan violates the principles of the three Sino-US joint communiques, will encourage Taiwan separatist activities and harm peace and stability in the Taiwan region as well as China-US relations," Liu said.
Jane's Defence Weekly reported on Sunday that the Pentagon would gradually send active-duty military personnel to replace civilian contractors at the AIT, starting with the deployment of a US army officer to head a Technical Liaison Section mid-next year.
The Pentagon had considered stationing an active-duty officer in Taipei in 2000, but put off the plan because of concerns about Beijing's protests, the weekly said, quoting an unidentified source.
Meanwhile, a US expert with close ties to the Pentagon said on Monday that the US will not be the first country with no diplomatic ties with Taiwan to have stationed an active-duty officer in Taipei.
The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, for example, France has long posted an active-duty officer in Taiwan.
To the best of his knowledge, he said, a French military officer was promoted to the rank of major-general after concluding his stint in Taiwan.
The expert said US law must be revised before the Pentagon sends active-duty military staff to Taiwan.
Under the law, active-duty military personnel must first apply for duty suspension before going to Taiwan and their service stint in Taiwan cannot be counted into their seniority when they return to continue their service in the military. As the suspension of seniority can affect promotions, few US military officers would be interested in serving in Taiwan.
The Pentagon will discuss possible revisions with Congress with reference to French provisions, the expert said.