The US may be preparing to post Marines at its representative office in Taipei — a small but symbolically significant change in its delicate political relationship with Taiwan.
A US State Department advertisement that ran in the Taipei Times and the China Post yesterday and today called for contractors to build quarters for Marine security guards at a new US compound in Taipei.
Since the US switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, there have been no Marine security guards at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in keeping with its low political profile.
It is customary for the US to have Marines guarding its embassies and consulates worldwide.
Placing the guards at AIT — the de facto US embassy — would constitute another in a series of gradual steps in upgrading its status.
An AIT spokesman had no immediate comment on the possible dispatch of Marines to Taipei.
Alexander Huang (黃介正), chair of the Graduate Institute of American Studies at Tamkang University, said that sending the Marines would mark an improvement in bilateral relations.
“With the Marine guards in place, the US would be treating its Taipei facility just like its other embassies and consulates despite the lack of diplomatic relations,” he said.
AIT staffers were originally required to sever their relationship with the US State Department and other US government agencies before commencing work at AIT. That requirement has since been dropped.
In 2005 the US began placing military attaches there, although to keep a low profile, they did not wear uniforms.
The new AIT building is a part of a large-scale State Department overseas construction program. The facility, to be built in Neihu District (內湖), will replace an aging downtown compound.
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