If all of the previously announced travel plans from the State Department had been carried out, Kelly Craft, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, would have been in Taiwan right now on a three-day trip to discuss economic and trade opportunities. That didn’t happen. Instead, she’s still stuck back in Washington. Given all of the heightened security after the riots last week, including extra precautions being taken at the airports, you might find the decision to cancel the trip understandable. Also, there’s still a surge in COVID going on, so perhaps that might have impacted the decision as well. But neither of those factors were cited as causes for nixing the trip. As it turns out, it wasn’t only Craft who was kept at home. All State Department travel was canceled, including a planned trip by the Secretary of State to Europe. The only reason cited by Mike Pompeo was that the cancellations were “part of the transition to the incoming Biden administration.” It’s not hard to imagine that there’s more here than meets the eye. (Free Beacon)
A cancellation of all travel by the U.S. State Department this week includes a planned visit to Taiwan by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, a State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Craft had been due to visit Taiwan from Wednesday to Friday, prompting China to warn that Washington was playing with fire. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that all travel this week had been canceled, including his own trip to Europe, as part of the transition to the incoming Biden administration…
Craft’s Taiwan trip appeared to be another part of an effort by Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s Republican administration to lock in a tough approach to China before Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
The original purpose of the visit involved more than just a chance to discuss trade deals. It was another clear message from the Trump administration that we weren’t going to be abandoning our friends just to avoid angering someone else. And who was the entity that was opposed to the trip? The Chinese Communist Party. A representative from China’s delegation to the United Nations had described the scheduling of the trip as the “crazy, irrational behaviors of certain people.” He also said that the Trump administration was “creating obstacles for the relationship between China and the United States.”
For their part, Taiwan’s government expressed its “understanding and respect” for the decision, while still expressing “disappointment.” They invited Craft to come to Taipei “at a more appropriate time.”
The strange part of this story, at least to me, is that President Trump could almost certainly have insisted that the trip to Taiwan go on anyway. After all, Joe Biden isn’t the president yet. But the reality is that the President has, well… let’s just say there have been a few other things on his plate over the past week. He may have been largely checked out when it comes to what’s going on in the travel office of the State Department.
So if this decision didn’t come from the White House (and there’s no indication of Trump commenting on it), then Pompeo could have made the call himself. But did he do it because he personally believed it was the right move or did someone from the Biden transition team put a bug in his ear?
One possible argument in favor of this being Pompeo’s idea is offered by the Free Beacon. The rumor mill suggests that Pompeo’s own trip was canceled after some top EU officials declined to meet with him so close to the arrival of the new administration. Rather than creating a story where he was basically snubbed, Pompeo could have just issued a blanket shutdown of all State Department travel citing the transition, the riots or anything else as the reason.
The other possibility is more ominous. Pompeo may be “done” with Donald Trump at this point and working behind the scenes with Antony Blinken to facilitate a smooth transition. (It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen such collaborations by a long shot.) If that’s the case, Biden’s team may be signaling that they don’t plan to do anything to upset the Chinese Communist Party too much. Does that mean that Uncle Joe will be throwing Taiwan under the bus? We’ve already seen suggestions that he’s not going to be going to the mat for Hong Kong.
I hope I’m wrong on this one, but it’s starting to look like the Biden administration will be embracing more of a “go along to get along” policy when it comes to China. That will win him points with the socialists in Europe and most liberals in the United States. But it would come at a terrible cost to aspiring democracies that fall under China’s shadow.