The Taiwan Travel Act “atypically recognizes, albeit indirectly, that Taiwan is in fact a ‘country,’” former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director William Stanton wrote on Sunday.
“It is symbolically significant that [US] President [Donald] Trump has signed the Taiwan Travel Act rather than allowing it to go quietly into effect absent his positive endorsement,” wrote Stanton, a visiting professor at National Taiwan University’s International College.
Stanton described Trump’s signing on Friday of the Taiwan Travel Act as a “public signal of affirmation rather than private acquiescence.”
Photo courtesy of William Stanton
However, he also called Trump’s delay in signing the act “worrisome,” because he saw it as “another sign of the vacillation we have already witnessed in [Trump’s] policies toward China and Taiwan.”
Stanton said that during his time as AIT director, he “strongly and often advocated what the Taiwan Travel Act now calls for — expanded high-level visits and contacts” between Taiwan and the US.
“All of the restrictions on the conduct of [the US’] ‘non-
diplomatic’ relations with Taiwan were only the self-imposed interpretative creations of US government lawyers,” he wrote.
“There was no reason why we could not simply change them,” he said, adding that with “quiet support” from Washington, he raised the US flag over the AIT for the first time since 1979, when the US broke formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
“The Taiwan Travel Act is significant, not only because of the higher level treatment of Taiwan it calls for, but also for its ‘findings,’” Stanton wrote.
These findings include “recognition of Taiwan’s ‘momentous transition to democracy,’” and that Taiwan “serves as a ‘beacon of democracy in Asia,’” he said.
Stanton also highlighted the fifth finding stated by the US Congress in the Taiwan Travel Act: “Visits to a country by United States Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials are an indicator of the breadth and depth of ties between the United States and such country.”
He said he hopes Taiwan will take advantage of this “endorsement of higher-level contacts.”
He said he welcomes the “recent shift in direction of the Trump Administration in dealing with China, and the elevation of advisors in the White House who are more willing to challenge the traditional Kissingerian view that the apparent stability of the overall US bilateral relationship with China always supersedes all individual Chinese policies no matter how harmful they are to US interests.”
The Taiwan Travel Act is “an important milestone in the maturation of US policy toward Taiwan and China,” he added.
The next logical step for the US administration “should be abolishing the AIT Washington office,” he said.
The office “long ago ceased to have any real role in Taiwan’s relations with the United States which require no intermediaries,” he added.
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