US, Australian officials reaffirm Taiwan's role in Indo-Pacific

American, Australian officials express support for Taiwan's membership in international organizations

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Reynolds (left), Payne (second from left), Pompeo (second from right), Esper (right). (Twitter, Marise Payne photo)

Reynolds (left), Payne (second from left), Pompeo (second from right), Esper (right). (Twitter, Marise Payne photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — During an annual meeting between American and Australian foreign affairs and defense officials, the two sides re-affirmed Taiwan's key role in the Indo-Pacific region and expressed support for the island country's participation in international organizations.

In Washington, D.C., on Tuesday (July 28), U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper hosted Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds at the 30th Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2020). After the meeting, the four held a joint press conference, with each leader presenting their conclusions on the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), China's exploitation of the pandemic to disrupt world order, and regional stability the Indo-Pacific region, including Beijing's actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea.

In a joint statement issued that day, the secretaries and ministers reiterated "Taiwan’s important role in the Indo-Pacific region." They also emphasized their countries' intent to continue unofficial ties with Taiwan and back its membership in international organizations "where statehood is not a prerequisite."

In cases where statehood is a prerequisite for participation, the representatives of the two countries expressed their backing of Taiwan's "meaningful participation as an observer or guest." They pointed out that recent events had "only strengthened their resolve to support Taiwan."

Referring to recent provocative action by the Chinese military in the Taiwan Strait, the officials restated that all cross-strait issues should be resolved in a peaceful manner that reflects the "will of the people on both sides" without the use of "threats or coercion." In recent months, Chinese warplanes have repeatedly intruded into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), and its submarines have been found lurking off the southern coast of the country.

China is planning a major military exercise in August, when it reportedly will use Hainan Island to simulate an invasion of the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands, 東沙群島). Through its state-run media mouthpiece the Global Times in May, Beijing threatened that it could turn the military exercises into an invasion of the island, and even Taiwan proper itself, if it so desired.

Lastly, the two countries pledged to increase donor coordination with Taiwan, with a particular emphasis on providing development assistance to Pacific Island nations.

In response to the joint statement, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) on Wednesday (July 29) said that the ministry would like to thank the U.S. and Australian governments for publicly expressing their support for Taiwan. Ou said that the statement "highlights the affirmation of the government's active promotion of the 'New Southbound Policy' and the recognition of Taiwan as an indispensable partner in the Indo-Pacific region."

She pointed out that Taiwan is located in an important hub of East Asia and the Western Pacific. Ou said that Taiwan will continue to work with the U.S., Australia, and like-minded countries to jointly promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Ou closed by saying that "Taiwan will continue to fulfill its responsibilities as a member of the international community and firmly defend the democratic system and the rule-based international order."