The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is concerned about possible Chinese interference in Taiwan’s elections through disinformation campaigns, AIT Director Brent Christensen said yesterday in Taipei, but added that the US’ de facto embassy enjoys good relations with the major local parties.
Christensen made the remarks in response to media queries at a news conference at the institute’s offices in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), where he delivered a speech on enhancing people-to-people ties between the US and Taiwan.
The speech was the last of his “four promotes” — promoting US-Taiwan security cooperation; bilateral economic and commercial relations; Taiwan’s role in the global community; and people-to-people ties — that he set as priorities when he assumed the post in August last year.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Asked if the US would send more warships through the Taiwan Strait to help ensure that the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections are fair, Christensen said that the US remains firm in its belief in the freedoms of navigation and flight as allowed by international law.
He sidestepped questions on how the US could prevent Beijing from interfering in the elections, saying only that Washington is confident that the elections would be free, fair and credible.
The US is opposed to any non-peaceful means to determine Taiwan’s future, Christensen said, citing the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, which is marking its 40th anniversary this year.
Washington is aware of China’s attempts to influence Taiwan’s elections, with malign actors trying to undermine the public’s faith in democratic institutions by spreading disinformation, he said.
The US and Taiwan both face challenges from disinformation campaigns and they have been working to combat misinformation by sharing information, mobilizing civil society and working with experts in the region, he added.
Asked if he would meet with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), the party’s presidential candidate, Christensen said that the AIT enjoys good relations with Taiwan’s major parties and regularly meets with lawmakers, mayors and other politicians.
Christensen in August met with Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, and has also had several opportunities to attend events involving President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party, who is seeking re-election.
Asked why there have not been more breakthroughs in mutual visits by US and Taiwanese officials, despite the implementation of the US’ Taiwan Travel Act last year, Christensen said that several deputy assistant secretaries have visited Taiwan this year, but declined to comment on why Tsai remains unable to visit Washington directly.
He also declined to answer a question on whether Taiwan could rely on the US’ support — as US President Donald Trump last month ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, seen by many as a betrayal of its Kurdish allies.
Christensen reaffirmed strong US-Taiwan relations, citing as examples Washington’s approval of several arms sales to Taiwan and many of the detection dogs deployed at Taiwan’s airports to defend against African swine fever being sourced from the US.
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