Sen. Rubio questions US State Dept. over Taiwanese flag's disappearance from website

Questions were posed to a reticent  Asst. Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs 

Sen. Marco Rubio, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Feb. 15 (Image from Youtube)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday, Feb. 15 spoke to representatives from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

During the exchange with the U.S. State Dept.’s representative Susan Thornton, Rubio questioned her very seriously on the issue of the Taiwanese flag being removed from State Department web pages.

The sudden disappearance of the Taiwanese Flag from State Dept. web pages around Jan. 24 raised several questions on the justification for the removal, and led many to wonder who ordered the change.

Susan Thornton, as acting assistant secretary of the bureau, should have been knowledgeable about any changes to the website under her management. When questioned by Rubio on the issue, she responded that a new contractor had become responsible for the site, and that the changes were made under the new contractor’s discretion.

When Rubio inquired further, Thornton emphasized that because the U.S. does not have official relations with Taiwan that it is policy not to display the flag on official U.S. government documents and webpages. 

When Rubio sought to understand why, if such a policy existed, the Taiwanese flag was displayed for such a long period before the abrupt change, Thornton offered no answer.

Shortly after the Taiwanese flag disappeared in late January, the State Department’s   new website contractor appears to have made a further decision that it would be best if all flags were removed from the website. Currently, none of the country pages on the website display national flags.

Rubio’s line of questioning for Thornton appeared to be inquiring as to whether members of the state department were acting favorably towards Chinese interests.

Rubio’s final round of questioning was to ask whether or not Thornton would agree with passing the Taiwan Travel Act (H.R. 535) which is approaching a vote in the Senate, and would permit high level officials from the U.S. government to visit with their counterparts in Taiwan.

Thornton waffled in her reply, indicating she would not offer an affirmative response, instead she only stated that Taiwan and the U.S. already have a robust unofficial diplomatic relationship.

The video of the exchange, posted on Senator Marco Rubio's youtube account can be viewed below. The discussion of the Taiwanese flag on the website begins at 2:20.