US sending marines to guard American Institute in Taiwan: SCMP

According to Hong Kong media, US State Dept. has confirmed marines will serve as security for new AIT offices in Taipei's Neihu District

Marines at dedication ceremony of US Embassy in Jerusalem

Marines at dedication ceremony of US Embassy in Jerusalem (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – According to a report from the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the U.S. State Department has confirmed it will dispatch a contingent of U.S. Marines as security detail to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

After more than a year of rumor and speculation, followed by an official request submitted by the State Department to the Pentagon, a State Department Official confirmed to the SCMP on Aug. 28 that American military personnel will provide security at the new compound of the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taipei’s Neihu district, which is set to open for operations in late September.

“A small number of American personnel detailed to AIT, along with a larger number of locally hired employees, will provide security for the new office building in cooperation with local authorities,” said the unnamed official in correspondence to the SCMP.

The quoted official does not specifically state that U.S. Marines will be stationed, but it is implied in the SCMP report that this was the question to which the unnamed official offered a response.

There is still no report on whether the “American personnel” assigned to the AIT for security will operate in military uniform, or plain clothes. The symbolism of uniformed U.S. military operating on Taiwanese soil is certain to upset the sensitivities of Beijing.

In late June following the State Department request to the Pentagon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, when asked about the potential contingent of Marines guarding the AIT, said that the United States should “proceed with caution.”

In late July, the Chinese state-backed propaganda blog, the Global Times, published an article titled “Marines in AIT not leverage for Taiwan” stating that China would view stationing U.S. Marines in Taipei as “severe subversion” or even as a “U.S. invasion of China.”

A more transparent statement from the AIT or the State Department is expected in the coming weeks, as the new AIT office prepares to open its doors for regular operations, under the leadership of the new director William Christenson.

The AIT held an official dedication ceremony on June 12, which was attended by an Assistant Secretary of State Marie Royce and the top leadership officials of the Tsai administration.

The AIT's new office compound in Taipei is widely regarded as a milestone in U.S.-Taiwan relations, a testament to the historical friendship between the two countries, and a symbol of improving relations and closer cooperation moving into the future.

Opening ceremony of AIT complex in Taipei, June 12, 2018 (Taiwan News Image)