The State Department has dispatched American Institute in Taiwan chairman Raymond Burghardt to Taipei from his station in Washington, D.C. to brief Republic of China in-exile leader Ma Ying-jeou.
Burghardt’s trip to Taiwan, his 10th since his appointment as AIT chairman, follows closely the state visit of Hu Jintao, head of the People’s Republic of China, to Washington. The AIT is America’s defacto embassy in Taiwan since the United States does not recognize the sovereignty of the ROC over Taiwan.
According to a State Department news release Burghardt, “will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou and a variety of major figures in politics and business.”
Burghardt made a similar trip to Taipei following Barack Obama’s visit to China where he pledged loyalty to the so-called “one China” policy. The Chinese understanding of “one China” means Taiwan belongs to China although the U.S. view is less well defined.
The United States has kept mainland Chinese claims to Taiwan at bay by supporting the exiled ROC regime while shrouding the island’s status with a “strategic ambiguity”. In 2009, the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals called Taiwan’s uncertain future and unresolved status “political purgatory” and urged Obama to “expeditiously” settle the matter.
Chinese military advances have put Taiwan increasingly in danger of invasion and Hu Jintao’s remarks to the U.S.-China Business Council about Taiwan while in Washington created jitters on the island. Hu told America to back off on Tibet and Taiwan because they were China’s “core interests” and not subject to outside interference.
Academics in Taiwan are divided over the significance of Hu’s visit to Washington and his remarks. The range of opinion varies from alarm to undecided and Burhardt’s trip is expected to help settle the unease in Taiwan over future developments for the island.
Congressional concern about China’s intentions surfaced during Hu’s visit, with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen leading the critics.
A fizzled ROC missile test on the eve of Hu’s travels where six of 19 missiles failed was stark evidence of the military dangers facing Taiwan.
While in Taiwan, Burghardt can brush up on Taiwan’s history since World War II by viewing the AIT’s exhibit Footsteps In History documenting U.S. military presence on the island during the Cold War.
The United States is the “principal occupying Power” over Taiwan under the San Francisco Peace Treaty and has long promised self-determination to the islanders but has not yet honored the pledge leaving them under the control of the exiled Chinese Nationalists while threatened by communist China.