U.S. Issues New Guidelines on Interactions with Taiwan, Complicating "One China" Policy
China Times, Apri1 11, 2021
The United States Department of State announced on April 9 a new version of its guidelines for interactions with Taiwan, relaxing the U.S. restrictions on engaging with Taiwanese officials. American officials and their Taiwanese counterparts will be able to visit each other's offices and conduct business activities. Moreover, U.S. officials will be able to attend events at the Twin Oaks estate, the former residence of the Republic of China's ambassador in Washington but will not be allowed to attend October 10 National Day reception. The move would deepen relations between Washington and Taipei amid increased mainland Chinese military activity towards Taiwan.
The Office of the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both said yesterday that they were pleased to see the United States take relevant measures to encourage closer exchanges between the United States and Taiwan, while looking forward to fostering more interactions in the future.
Spokesman Ned Price of the Department of State stated that the new guidelines for U.S. government interaction with Taiwan counterparts complies with its “One China” policy.” According to an announcement by the State Department on its official website, these new guidelines liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan, consistent with our unofficial relations, and provide clarity throughout the Executive Branch on effective implementation of our “One China” policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. The new guidelines had been issued following a review of relevant regulations regarding Taiwan as set forth in the Taiwan Assurance Act. Another State Department spokesperson further explained that the new guidelines allow for working-level meetings between U.S. and Taiwan officials held either at U.S. federal agencies or at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the U.S., which were previously expressly prohibited.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, in a move to significantly enhance engagement and interaction with Taiwan, the U.S. Department of State had revised its engagement guidelines. The revision really turned a new page in Taiwan-U.S. relations.
Nonetheless, an unnamed American official said the new guidelines would still have some "guardrails," such as not allowing U.S. officials to attend events at Twin Oaks during major Taiwan festivals because it could complicate the "One China” policy. We have reinstated the guardrails, but the distance between the railings is much wider, so both Beijing and Taipei should be happy, said the American official.
A knowledgeable source noted that some restrictions including the non-display of Taiwan's national flag at any meetings would remain. Plus, anything related to sovereignty would be excluded.
Former Representative to the United States Shen Lyu-shun held a flag-raising ceremony at Twin Oaks on New Year's Day in 2015, which sparked displeasure on the U.S. side. The new rules of engagement promulgated by the U.S. Department of State are indeed a step forward, Shen said yesterday. But it's a shame we can't raise the flag at Twin Oaks, Shen said. He questioned why the American Institute in Taiwan can raise the flag in Taipei, but Taiwan’s representative office cannot raise its national flag in Washington? All in all, flag-raising in each other’s capital city is the most fundamental respect.
After the United States ceased recognizing the R.O.C. in 1979 and established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China instead, the United States began to impose restrictions on official U.S.-Taiwan relations.
In December 2020, the United States Congress passed the Taiwan Reassurance Act, which requires a review of the relevant regulations. Before Donald Trump left office as president on January 20, Mike Pompeo announced on January 9 that he would repeal the State Department's 2015 “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan and would lift the "self-imposed restrictions" on official U.S.-Taiwan contacts. The said announcement triggered strong opposition and protests from Beijing.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made clear its opposition to all kind of official contacts between the United States and Taiwan and warned that the Taiwan issue is the most sensitive issue in U.S.-China relations. China added that the United States should change its dangerous practices by the previous Trump administration of "crossing the red line, while playing with fire."