Maintaining the “status quo” ensures peace, stability and prosperity in Taiwan and the world, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said in an interview posted online on Sunday night.
“Because Taiwan is such an important economic player, stability and economic growth here means stability and economic growth throughout the world,” AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk said in an interview with Storm Media.
The US has a long-standing “one China policy,” which is rooted in the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques and the “six assurances,” which is the so-called “status quo,” she said.
Photo: Screen grab from Storm Media’s Web site
Although some might consider the US’ stance “ambiguous,” it has helped ensure decades of economic growth, improved people’s standard of living and allowed Taiwan to become a tech powerhouse, she said.
Oudkirk reiterated the US’ commitment to supporting Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, adding that “Taiwan needs to show that it can defend itself.”
Regarding whether the US would speak up in support of Taiwan’s bid to join international organizations, such as becoming an observer in the World Health Assembly, she said that the US “firmly believes that Taiwan ought to have a voice” in such institutions.
Support from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies as well as unofficial partners such as the US form a multiplicity of voices that “can be really effective,” she said.
Blocking Taiwan from international organizations is “wrong,” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic considering Taiwan’s significant expertise in epidemic prevention, she said.
“Maintaining and building relationships” between the US and Taiwan is Oudkirk’s most important task as AIT director, including through commercial, people-to-people and security relationships, as well as between colleges, chambers of commerce and industrial associations, she said.
Such connections allow people from Taiwan and the US to understand each other and work together on issues of mutual importance, she said.
Asked about skepticism regarding the US’ commitment to Taiwan, she said that “in a democratic society, skepticism is a good thing” and a sign of healthy democracy.
Being able to question the government, officials and authority indicates freedom of thought and speech, she said.
She encouraged anyone who has questions about the policies of the AIT or US to reach out to the office, adding that it strives to engage in dialogue with Taiwanese and Americans living in Taiwan.
Oudkirk said that she has seen only positive changes in Taiwan compared with 30 years ago when she worked in the country as a visa officer.
The changes include economic growth, strong democratic development and environmental consciousness, she said.
“The people are the same,” she said, adding that they are “friendly, smart, creative and open to outsiders.”
Living in Taipei, Oudkirk said that Tainan is the city she visits most often for its great accessibility, adding that the coastline in Taitung is the most beautiful drive in the nation.
Regarding Taiwan’s presidential election in January, the US is “entirely neutral,” she said.
Having met and worked with the three presidential candidates from the three major parties — Vice President William Lai (賴清德) of the Democratic Progressive Party, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of the Taiwan People’s Party, Oudkirk said that “I’m confident we [the AIT] can work with any of them.”
The three candidates are “very different people,” but are all skilled and experienced politicians who are competent at governance, she said.
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