The Pentagon has named Abraham Denmark — an Asia expert with a strong record of support for Taiwan — as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
The position makes him a key adviser to US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and US President Barack Obama on questions involving Taiwan and China.
Denmark supports Taiwan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), wants to expand the nation’s international space and is in favor of boosting Taiwan’s defensive strength.
He had been serving as senior vice president of political and security affairs and external relations for the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR).
At the US Department of Defense, he is to replace US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey, who has been less vocal on Taiwan issues.
Before joining the NBR, Denmark served in the Pentagon as country director for China affairs.
“I can say wholeheartedly that Denmark has the skills and knowledge to be a key player in modernizing US alliances and partnerships in East Asia,” former commander of US forces in the Pacific Admiral Dennis Blair said.
In testimony before a US Senate subcommittee last year, Denmark said that Taiwan’s “open politics and its exuberant democracy” were remarkable.
He said that despite significant warming in relations between Taipei and Beijing, China continued to refuse to renounce the use of force to compel unification.
Denmark said that entry into the TPP trade agreement would encourage Taipei to liberalize its economy and have “tremendous benefits” for the nation in the long term.
He said that Washington should work with Taipei and Beijing, as well as other members of major institutions, to identify more opportunities for Taiwan to play a constructive role in organizations where issues of sovereignty do not apply.
“On security issues, the US and Taiwan should continue to work closely with one another to enhance Taiwan’s ability to defend itself,” Denmark said. “Taiwan’s recent decision to pursue an indigenous submarine capability is a positive development, and American strategists and naval experts should work closely with their counterparts in Taiwan to identify the capabilities necessary to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense.”
Denmark added that Taiwan’s “flat” defense budget was a persistent problem and that it must be addressed.
He also said that Taiwan should clarify whether its claims in the South China Sea are consistent with international law.
The US had a “profound interest” in enhancing Taiwan’s ability to defend itself, he said.
Earlier, Denmark and NBR project manager Tiffany Ma published an article online criticizing proposals from China and some US academics that the US stop selling arms to Taiwan.
“Washington has robust reasons to stand firm on its commitments to Taiwan,” they said.
The nation has continuing importance in a broad set of US interests in Asia and is a reliable friend, they added.
“Buckling to pressure from Beijing would not only lose Washington a valuable partner in its rebalancing efforts, but also heighten concerns among other US allies and friends of being sidelined for China, and even affirm a perception of US appeasement to Chinese demands,” they wrote. “The answer to the challenge of maintaining a positive relationship with Beijing is not to sacrifice a stalwart, democratic friend. Rather, both Washington and Beijing must find ways to cooperate on issues of mutual interest and when possible avoid competitive or confrontational issues within the context of America’s ongoing relations with Taiwan.”
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