The director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a non-profit that serves as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, affirmed the strength of the U.S. commitment to Taiwan this morning, but left questions as to the nature of that commitment open.

Speaking at a May 21, 2018 press conference warming up for the opening of a new office compound, AIT Director Kin Moy (梅健華) told reporters that the complex in Taipei’s Neihu District, the first purpose-built facility constructed by a foreign representative office in Taiwan, will officially open June 12 as “a tangible symbol of U.S.-Taiwan friendship.”

Moy said that people could expect to see “good friends of Taiwan coming from Washington to help us celebrate” but would not be drawn on whether the Trump administration would leverage the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA) to send high rankings U.S. officials to attend the opening ceremony.


Photo Credit: AIT

Inside the American Institute in Taiwan's new Neihu complex.

Taiwan enjoyed a flurry of visits from relatively high-status U.S. government officials in the wake of the March 16 signing of the TTA, including Ed Randall Royce, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Alex Wong, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing Ian Steff.

Moy was equally enigmatic when it came to the question over whether U.S. Marines or other military personnel would be involved in handling the compound’s security.

“All of our buildings overseas have security requirements to meet and AIT is no different. [Security] is focused on AIT and the security of the compound [not policy issues],” he said. “We have a small number of American personnel who coordinate with local security staff to provide security for our building and staff, and that situation will continue at the new AIT.”

Marines are believed to be on station at the existing AIT compound, though they do not serve in military uniform.

On the wider question of how the U.S. would support Taiwan as China continues to squeeze its ability to operate in the international sphere, most recently evidenced by its success in barring Taiwan from attending the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer, Moy said that U.S. policy on relations between Taiwan and China had not changed.

Marines are believed to be on station at the existing AIT compound, though they do not serve in military uniform.

“We support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in multilateral organizations like the WHO (World Health Organization) and we were very disappointed to hear that China had gone to some effort to block Taiwan’s from receiving an invitation to the WHA,” Moy said, adding that the U.S. would continue to support opportunities for positive cross-Strait dialogue.

“We will continue to urge the WHO to issue an invitation to Taiwan to participate. We believe that Taiwan has a great number of health experts who can contribute to world health policy and the international organizations that cover these areas and wherever we can we are going to try and promote Taiwan’s activities,” he added.

Moy also said he was very proud of the legacy he and his team would leave behind when he leaves his post after serving for three years in June.

Asked whether there could be uncertainty in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship if his successor is not named in the near future, particularly given the Trump administration’s tardiness in filling key State Department roles, Moy said, “When I arrived three years ago there was a smooth continuity and I have every confidence that will be replicated, [and] that there will be no interruption that anyone here will notice.”

As of March, almost a quarter of the U.S.’ 188 ambassadorial posts at embassies and international organizations around the world remained unfilled, according to various media reports.

Moy dead batted questions over whether Taiwan was being used as a pawn in order for the U.S. to place greater military and economic pressure on China.

“Our efforts to forge a strong cooperative relationship with Taiwan is not a zero-sum game – it does not come at the expense of other parties,” he said.

The AIT director pointed to Taiwan becoming the 12th country in the world to enrol in the U.S. Global Entry program, which allows citizens of member nations to enter the U.S. at automatic kiosks, as evidence of the strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

A new exhibition, titled “Strong Foundation, Bright Future” will open May 31 at the National 228 Museum to celebrate AIT’s 40th anniversary and the opening of the Neihu complex.

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Editor: Morley J Weston