Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this today in Taiwan.
“It’s my view the U.S. government should immediately and take necessary and long overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing, that is to offer the Republic of China Taiwan America’ diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country,” Pompeo said while speaking at the invitation of the Prospect Foundation in Taipei, a private think tank based in Taiwan.
“It’s the reality. It’s the fact… there’s no need for Taiwan to declare independence because it’s already an independent nation,” he added.
Naturally, China was not pleased with these comments. One Chinese spokesman called the speech “babbling nonsense.” The South China Morning Post has more:
His visit drew a stern response from Beijing, with foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying “the relevant actions from Pompeo are despicable and inevitably a futile effort”.
Zhu Fenglian, from the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, called Pompeo’s remarks “totally absurd”.
This isn’t the only recent visit to Taiwan by former US officials. Former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen was part of a five man delegation of former officials that also visited Taiwan this week. Mullen gave a speech about stability across the Taiwan straight:
“We come to Taiwan at a very difficult and critical moment in world history. As President Biden has said, democracy is facing sustained and alarming challenges, most recently in Ukraine,” Mullen said. “Now more than ever, democracy needs champions.”
This visit was also met with Chinese displeasure. One nationalist Chinese news outlet even ran a whole article about the significance of Mullen’s socks:
According to Taiwan-based media udn.com, some “external affairs officials” on the island noticed that Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was wearing a pair of “flowery socks” on Thursday when he met Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and other officials. The arbitrary socks have made some Taiwan officials “stunned.”
Citing a staff from the concierge authority in Taiwan, udn.com said the US delegation’s impolite and “improper dressing” shows its contempt of the Taiwan authority.
Here’s the photo that accompanied the story about the socks.
China’s touchiness about Taiwan is nothing new and neither is Taiwan’s concern about a possible future invasion by the mainland. But the attack on Ukraine has really ramped up that concern on the island. People there have started using a new, somewhat fatalistic slogan: “Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Taiwan.”
In Taiwan, where residents have for years been numb to Beijing’s threats and intimidation — including daily incursions into their air defense identification zone, military exercises simulating attacks on the island and cyberattacks — there is a growing realization that the status quo may no longer hold.
“I believe that today’s Ukraine is tomorrow’s Taiwan,” said Lung Wei-chen, a 69-year-old retired soldier from the southern city of Kaohsiung. “Other countries including the United States are not reliable, and we only have ourselves to defend Taiwan.”…
“I used to think that it’s not possible for China to attack Taiwan. Now I fear that if Russia is able to win the war, the chances of China using force against Taiwan will rise,” said Marvyn Hsu, a 26-year-old finance researcher in Taipei.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is officially downplaying this comparison, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine have definitely put China’s neighbors on edge. Japan also seems very aware that China is watching closely how the world reacts to Russia.
Japan, not typically a sanctions hawk, wanted to ensure that Beijing drew the right lesson from Russia’s invasion of a weaker neighbor. Moscow would pay a high price…
“We want to demonstrate what happens when a country invades another country,” said one Japanese official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Not only did Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, freeze Moscow’s access to tens of billions of dollars’ worth of its currency reserves held in the central bank in Tokyo. It also joined with other Group of Seven nations and Australia to cut some Russian banks off from a global interbank messaging system known as SWIFT and freeze the assets of Russian officials and elites. It is also targeting individuals and organizations from Belarus.
Even more surprising, this week Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe suggested that Japan should consider hosting US nuclear weapons on its soil.
“In Nato, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy take part in nuclear sharing, hosting American nuclear weapons,” Abe said in a TV interview, according to Nikkei Asia. “We need to understand how security is maintained around the world and not consider it taboo to have an open discussion.
“We should firmly consider various options when we talk about how we can protect Japan and the lives of its people in this reality.”
Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is part of the US nuclear umbrella but has for decade adhered to the three non-nuclear principles – that it will not produce or possess nuclear weapons or allow them on its territory.
For obvious reasons, that idea is considered a non-starter in Japan and was quickly shot down by the current prime minister. Still, it’s an indication that concerns about China’s willingness to be aggressive, toward Taiwan and possibly its other neighbors are rising in light of what is currently happening in Ukraine.
If Russia succeeds in taking control of Taiwan without serious consequences, there’s no doubt that will play into China’s future decision making. If, on the other hand, Russia pays a heavy price both in terms of losses on the battlefield and a pounding to its economy, China will also take that into account.
Here’s a report on Pompeo’s speech.