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HomeChainaBiden to send US delegation to Taiwan for inauguration of William Lai

Biden to send US delegation to Taiwan for inauguration of William Lai

US President Joe Biden will dispatch a delegation of former government officials to the inauguration ceremony for Taiwanese president-elect William Lai Ching-te next week, a senior administration official said, in a show of support for the candidate and political party that has sparked the ire of Beijing.

The delegation is to include Brian Deese, Biden’s former top economic adviser, and Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state under former president George W. Bush, according to the official, who framed the plan as “a long-standing precedent” and consistent with Washington’s one-China policy.

It will be the Biden administration’s second delegation to Taiwan since the election. He dispatched one led by former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley and James Steinberg, a former deputy secretary of state in the Barack Obama administration, to Taipei two days after Lai was elected in January to show support for the self-governing island’s democratic process.

In 2016, then-president Obama sent John Negroponte, deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush for the inauguration of Tsai’s first term as president. Negroponte led the delegation with former US trade representative Ron Kirk. Raymond Burghardt, then chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) – the de facto US embassy on the island – also attended, among others.


William Lai wins Taiwan presidential election

William Lai wins Taiwan presidential election

The Biden official explained that “intensified diplomacy” between Washington and Beijing over the past year had been aimed at “clearing up misperceptions [and] being clear about the US one-China policy – what that means and what it does not mean”.

Last month, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with China’s defence minister, Admiral Dong Jun, the first such communication with his Chinese counterpart in over two years and the first time since Dong was appointed in December, following a protracted period during which direct, military-to-military – also known as “mil-mil” – talks were on ice.
Less than two weeks later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Blinken and Wang spent nearly six hours discussing their differences, including tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on April 26. Photo: AP
Pressed for details about the role that Biden officials’ meetings with mainland Chinese counterparts have played with respect to the Taiwanese election, the official also credited discussions between US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Wang in Thailand in January.

These talks, the official said, were key “to ensuring that we don’t accidentally stumble into conflict, that on the mil-mil side, how both sides react in certain situations are clear and explained”. The official asserted that Sullivan’s effort, together with the mil-mil talks, put US-China dialogue “in a slightly more stable position than where we were a year ago”.

The delegation led by Deese and Armitage is also to include Laura Rosenberger, the current AIT chair, as well as former AIT chair Richard Bush, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

In 2012, Obama sent a delegation with a similar makeup, led by Steinberg, for the inauguration of Taiwan’s then-president Ma Ying-jeou.

Taiwan’s inauguration of Tsai for her second term, in 2020, occurred during the early stages of the Covid-19 epidemic, preventing then-president Donald Trump from sending a US delegation.

Beijing regards both Lai, who is Ing-wen’s vice-president, and his running mate Hsiao Bi-Khim as dangerous “separatists” and “troublemakers”.

Regardless of who is in power in Taipei, Beijing sees Taiwan as a part of China that will eventually be reunited, by force if necessary. Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state, but Washington opposes any attempt to take the island by force and remains committed to supplying it with weapons.

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