TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — At his first press conference held Wednesday after assuming the position as director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in August, Brent Christensen specified that promoting security and economic cooperation are part of his priorities in terms of building a stronger relationship between Taiwan and the United States during his three-year mandate.
“Promoting security cooperation and improving Taiwan’s self-defense capability go hand in hand,” said the U.S. representative to Taiwan. “Our obligation to support Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability against coercion is a foundational element of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).”
Earlier in October, the US Department of State and Congress approved an arms deal to Taiwan worth US$330 million. The package comprises elements related to “the F-16, C-130, F-5, Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), all other aircraft systems and subsystems, and other related elements of logistics and program support,” according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The deal is likely to be followed by another arms sale later this year, which would then be the third U.S. arms transaction with Taiwan under the Trump Administration, as reports from a press event under the 2018 U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Maryland, U.S. on Oct. 28 suggest.
However, the director declined to answer whether there will be a joint drill between the two nations in the Taiwan Strait. “I don’t have anything specific to share with you on this. I would refer you to the Department of Defense for more information.”
The United States considers it important to have free and open sea lanes across the Indo-Pacific and maintain its presence in the region, added the Director.
“The U.S. policy towards Taiwan has not changed,” said Christensen, referring to the Taiwan Relations Act and Three Communiques as a foundation for the United States’ handling cross-strait affairs. “Any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means represents a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and is of grave concern to the United States.”
As the trade tensions between China and the United States continue to escalate, Christensen said the economic relationship between Taiwan and the United States has remained “robust” and he will continue to work in furthering that relationship during his term.
The director said discussions between the two nations on the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and other trade issues are being undertaken. “When both sides are fully prepared to engage in a TIFA council, we will certainly do that.”
Speaking of AIT’s new office complex located in the Neihu District of Taipei City, Christensen said he anticipates the de-facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan to be officially inaugurated at the end of the year.
“We are still awaiting some final certifications,” said the director, reiterating that the US$255 million office compound represents a “commitment” to the strong Taiwan-U.S. partnership.
Asked about whether there will be high-level U.S. officials attending the inauguration, the director answered, “as we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the TRA, we will certainly look for opportunities to invite US officials to come to Taiwan as needed.”
The AIT's new office complex was dedicated in June by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce, AIT Chairman James Moriarty, a number of former AIT directors, along with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and top officials under her administration.