TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The United States wants to deepen its ties with Taiwan, the autonomous island that has become a major point of conflict in strained U.S.-China relations, and will work to counter Beijing’s “malicious” influence, a US official said Friday.
At her first public press conference, Sandra Oudkirk, the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto message, reiterated the official lines that the United States remains deeply committed to Taiwan and is actively working on new areas of cooperation such as cybersecurity and supply chains.
“The value of our partnership and support for Taiwan is rock solid,” Oudkirk said. “We are committed to deepening our relationship with Taiwan.”
US support for Taiwan stems from the fact that tensions between China and the island are now at an all-time high in decades, and Beijing is exacerbating its military harassment by flying warplanes into Taiwan. China has not ruled out reunification with Taiwan, which separated from the mainland during the 1949 civil war.
The United States changed China’s diplomatic recognition from the ruling government of the Nationalist Party in Taipei to the Communist Party in Beijing in 1979 but continues to maintain strong unofficial ties with the self-governing island.
Oudkirk declined to comment on security initiatives or give details of the presence of US troops on the island after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed on Thursday that there were indeed American boots on-site, though less than people would think.
“We will continue to advance the global and regional goals of the Biden administration, including combating the malicious influence of the People’s Republic of China, recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic, and combating the threat of climate change,” Oudkirk said.
Washington has helped Taiwan sell weapons to improve the island’s ability to defend itself and routinely navigates the waters around the island, what it calls freedom of movement.
Oudkirk, who became a director over the summer, also reiterated that the US will support Taiwan in its role on the international stage without giving any details.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday called on other United Nations members to support Taipei’s independent involvement in international transportation, health, climate change, culture, and education organizations. Taiwan, for example, is not a member of the World Health Organization.
A major new focus of U.S.-Taiwan relations is supply chains amid a global crisis of computer chips known as semiconductors.
Taiwan is home to TSMC or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of contract processor chips. These chips are used in everything from smartphones to medical devices to gaming computers.
In recent weeks, local media reported that Taiwanese companies are concerned about a request for information from the U.S. Department of Commerce to chip manufacturers about potentially sensitive information, such as inventory, production, and their main customers. For example, TSMC serves customers in China and around the world.
“I stressed that the Department of Commerce’s recent request for information is just that, it’s a request,” Oudkirk said in response to these concerns, saying it was voluntary.