A US plan to send 10 officials to study and intern in Taiwan every two years is crucial for the two sides to build trust, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said.
The US Senate last month passed the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which approved US$2 billion in annual military grants to Taiwan.
One noteworthy part of the NDAA is that it includes the Taiwan Fellowship Act, Wang, who chairs the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said on Sunday.
Under the fellowship act, the US would send 10 federal government employees to live in Taiwan on a two-year fellowship, during which they would spend one year learning Mandarin and about local issues, and the other interning in the public sector, he said.
Such programs enable grassroots civil servants to interact with each other, so that when they become senior officials, they can communicate directly with counterparts in the other country whom they are familiar with, he said.
The fellowship act was inspired by past exchanges between the US and Japan, and such programs have helped build a stable relationship between the US and Japan, he said.
Asked whether the US might intervene in Taiwan’s domestic affairs through such programs, Wang said that they were “thinking too much.”
Taiwan can provide internship opportunities in the public sector for US officials, he said, adding that the Industrial Technology Research Institute might be a good option as its employees are not limited to civil servants.
The main purpose of the act is to create channels for the two countries to exchange not in national defense or security, but in the economy and healthcare, he said.
Asked whether internship opportunities could become available in the US for Taiwanese civil servants, Wang said that more interactions with other countries would be beneficial to Taiwan.
Engaging in international exchanges without compromising Taiwan’s dignity, interests and laws would provide good opportunities for young Taiwanese civil servants, he said.
DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said that the details of the fellowship, including the officials the US would send to Taiwan and the agencies that would provide the internships, are still being deliberated.
The program “is undoubtedly going to cement the relationship between Taiwan and the US,” he said.
If a situation demands the two sides to work together, whether in a time of calm or in an emergency, the exchange would demonstrate its effectiveness, he said.
Lo said he thinks that people who are concerned about the US intervening in Taiwan’s domestic affairs “worry too much,” as exchanges between civil servants and military personnel from different countries are normal.
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