Top-level officials from Taiwan and the US on Tuesday met for a day-long security dialogue at the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) Washington headquarters.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo (顧立雄) met with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer for the annual talks. The meeting started at 10am and lasted until 5pm.
No official statements were made as to what was discussed during the meeting. Neither Taipei nor Washington confirmed that the meeting even occurred.
Director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund Bonnie Glaser said the meeting has taken place for the past 25 years.
The Financial Times described it as part of an annual “special diplomatic dialogue” between senior Taiwanese and US officials.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the meeting, Wu and Koo waved at reporters as they arrived at the AIT office in Arlington, Virginia, at about 9:30am, accompanied by Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).
None of them spoke publicly before or after the meeting.
The AIT represents US interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties. Its headquarters are based in the US, with branch offices in Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Other participants in the meeting included US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink; Rick Waters, US deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan; and Ely Ratner, US assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Michael Chase, US National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for China and Taiwan Laura Rosenberger, NSC China Director Rush Doshi and AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk also attended the meeting.
The timing of the talks is significant, as rising US-China tensions following the US’ shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon likely made Washington less concerned with offending Beijing, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said.
The meeting showed that China can no longer obstruct the development of Taiwan-US relations, he said, adding that the talks focused heavily on policy issues and were light on platitudes.
That the meeting was attended by national security, defense and foreign affairs officials suggests that the scope of talks was likely broad and that bilateral cooperation, including on the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, was discussed, he said.
The visit to Washington by a sitting foreign minister marks the beginning of a new era in Taiwan-US relations, DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said.
Wu’s visit was made possible by the US’ 2018 Taiwan Travel Act and sets a precedent, he said.
High-ranking Taiwanese and US officials conducted talks via the special channel on multiple occasions, but the latest meeting being made public marks a shift, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.
That the contents of talks through the channel over the past three years were leaked to the media suggests political intent, he said.
The positions of the officials who took part in the meeting suggest discussions likely included matters of diplomacy, the situation across the Taiwan Strait, national defense and coming exchanges between high-level officials, Chiang said.
US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s planned visit to Taiwan and President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) rumored plans to visit the US might have necessitated dialogue about how best to deal with China’s possible response, he said.
The members of the Taiwanese delegation should reveal details of the talks after returning home, he said, adding that transparency would calm the public and the armed forces.
The meeting sends the message that Taiwan-US relations are becoming normalized and the process is irreversible, independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) said, adding that the strength of the relationship would help protect the nation’s interests.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Chin
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