John Bolton could help with Taiwan-U.S. visits: official

John Bolton

John Bolton (By Wikimedia Commons)

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) U.S. President Donald Trump's appointment of John Bolton as his national security advisor could lead to more visits by high-level U.S. officials to Taiwan, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young said Saturday.

In an interview with CNA, Young said the U.S. government will try to have "more frequent visits and higher level visits" following the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. and Taiwan officials of all levels to visit each other.

Young said that while the Trump administration can implement the act at its discretion, the recent appointment of John Bolton "who knows Taiwan well...could make it easier to get concrete decisions and actions on that score."

Bolton is considered to be an outspoken supporter of Taiwan, and he has recommended that the U.S. increase arms sales to Taiwan and station troops here.
His "war hawk" disposition, however, has many worried how he will shake things up for the U.S. military now that he is part of Trump's team.

The former AIT director noted several times in the interview that these visits, no matter the level of the official, have always been possible even prior to the act's passage, and the Taiwan Travel Act simply highlights the importance of these exchanges.

They have also been extremely rare. When EPA administrator Gina McCarthy visited Taiwan in 2014, it was the first such visit by a U.S. Cabinet official since 2000, and no other Cabinet-level officials have visited since.

One upcoming occasion that could prompt a visit by high-level U.S. officials is the dedication ceremony for AIT's new compound in Neihu District in Taipei.

Young, who actually found the plot of land and helped with the initial blueprints, said it "would be appropriate...and make sense" for high-level U.S. officials to attend the event.

The AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, has said the new office should open around the middle of this year.

"I personally think it would be great if they (the U.S. government) had a Cabinet level official with some relevance to Taiwan issues come here" for the ceremony, Young said.