New US envoy to Taiwan pledges help in self-defense amid Chinese threats

The new top US envoy to Taiwan vowed Wednesday that Washington will help the self-governing island defend itself. Photo: pexels

The new US ambassador to Taiwan pledged Wednesday that Washington will help the self-ruled island defend itself as China steps up its military threat.

Raymond Greene, who took up his new position as director of the American Institute in Taiwan on Monday, met with Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te.

First, and most importantly, the U.S. will strongly support Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, Greene said. We both have common and long-term interests in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Lai said Taiwan will seek to maintain the status quo with Beijing, which regards the island democracy of 23 million people as its own territory, to be reclaimed by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry also said Wednesday it had detected 36 Chinese military jets, including J-16 fighters and H-6 bombers, flying south and southeast of the island and en route to the western Pacific to conduct exercises with the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong.

The U.S., like most countries, does not recognize Taiwan as a country. But it is the island’s most important partner and is bound by U.S. law to provide the country with the means to defend itself. Less than a month ago, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of missiles and drones to Taiwan for an estimated $360 million.

In April, the House of Representatives approved an $8 billion military aid package for Taiwan.

Taiwan and the US are solid partners committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region, Lai said on Wednesday.

The Chinese government has not yet commented on the meeting.

The American Institute in Taiwan functions as a de facto embassy. Taipei also has an Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US and similar de facto embassies in other countries.

China has stepped up its military pressure on the island since Lai took office in May. Beijing views Lai as a separatist and refuses to talk to him.

In late June, Beijing threatened to hunt down and execute diehard supporters of Taiwanese independence. In response, Taipei urged its citizens to avoid traveling to China and the semi-autonomous Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao.

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First print: Jul 10, 2024 | 12:30 PM IST