Taiwan envoy: US commitment ‘never absolute’

American Institute in Taiwan says it is opposed to Taiwan independence poll

By Asia Times staff

De-facto US ambassador to Taiwan Brent Christensen, whose official title is director of the American Institute in Taiwan, told reporters in a recent interview that he was a thorn in Beijing’s side long before assuming his position as Washington’s point man on the self-ruled island.

Christensen arrived in Beijing in 2007 for his assignment as Counselor for Environment, Science, Technology and Health, and before long he noticed that the capital city’s smoggy skies failed to clear up even after the city’s meteorologists forecast a blue, sunny day.

He then purchased an air quality monitor and installed it on the roof of the US embassy complex in northeastern Beijing “to get an accurate sense of how bad China’s air pollution really was”.

“No one had a very clear picture on how serious [the air pollution] was, because the Chinese published data that was clearly not accurate,” Christensen told Taiwanese reporters.

With his own, real-time air quality readings published online, Christensen singlehandedly shed light on China’s nebulous air quality monitoring and accountability system as party cadres cheated on their declarations of blue sky days. And unsurprisingly, Beijing started to fume and took its complaints directly to Christensen.

“I do not remember how many times they complained, but I think their complaints just went away when it became obvious that there was such a big demand for this information,” Christensen said.

The US embassy’s realtime air quality index has since become a more reliable gauge, way more so than official readings, of how polluted the air is and if people should wear a mask when going outside.

The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection ultimately succumbed to the mounting public pressure and began to make public accurate air quality data itself.

Taiwan ties

Christensen was first posted to Taiwan as a visa officer at the AIT at the turn of the 1990s, his first overseas assignment after joining the US Department of State. Over the course of his diplomatic career, his job has brought him back to Taiwan again and again. He served as AIT’s deputy director from 2012 to 2015.

His expertise on environmental protection also paved the way for a visit by then-US Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, the first cabinet-level US official to visit Taiwan.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act and the establishment of the AIT. Christensen said he plans to move his staff to the AIT’s brand-new compound in Taipei’s Neihu District very soon.

When asked to verify reports that US President Donald Trump was skeptical about any US security commitment to Taiwan, Christensen noted that, while there was a commitment [by the US] to come to Taiwan’s defense if China resorted to non-peaceful means to deal with separatist moves, that commitment was “never absolute”, according to Taiwanese papers.

The AIT said in February that it would not endorse a referendum on Taiwan independence proposed by some secessionist groups.

“The US has a deep and abiding interest in cross-strait peace and stability and the US has long been opposed to unilateral actions aimed at altering the status quo… It has been our long-standing policy that we do not support a referendum on Taiwan independence,” read an AIT statement.

Before heading the AIT, Christensen was Director of the State Department’s Office of Taiwan coordination, where he had a primary role in formulating US policy toward Taiwan. His other overseas postings also include Hong Kong.

Before his appointment was announced in May 2018, reports suggested Washington considered whether it was best to appoint a career diplomat or politician to head the AIT and veteran Arizona politician Matt Salmon was also tipped for the role. However it was said that the State Department was keen for someone who would creatively strengthen the US-Taiwan relationship.

Source: Asia Times “Taiwan envoy: US commitment ‘never absolute’”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


5 Comments on “Taiwan envoy: US commitment ‘never absolute’”

  1. Simon says:

    China not take Taiwan by force not because it fears American intervention because America will not risk war with China over intervention of a Chinese civil war. The real reason is China does not want to hurt campatriot in Taiwan and also does not want to show its neighbours that it is a hegemon like the Americans.
    Even North Korea is revamping its rocket launch sites in response to America not lifting sanction but made concession to stop war games.


  2. Martian says:

    China has already set the deadline for unification by 2049 whatever it takes.


    • Joseph says:

      If this ‘deadline’ is true, then it is a good. When unification happens, then there is no more reason for pesky America to stir trouble anymore. Unification is good. It did good for Vietnam and Geraby. The Korean dreams of their countries unification. Who divided them in the first place anyway? The American, of course. Even the European achieves unification through the EU. Even the American is getting a stronger through unification, otherwise they won’t be ‘U’SA. So the American really knows how evil it is to dis-unify people. Yet they try do it time and again, in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and Indonesia. People around the world should unify to de-United States of America. The American is too childish and too dangerous to be a world power, like giving loaded guns to a five year old bully kid.


      • Martian says:

        What do you mean if it is true? Don’t you follow what’s happening in Mainland?


        The president himself has said it himself, does that sound true enough? lol
        Communist China would be celebrating its centennial existence by 2049, by then the unification must be a done deal. So there’s still 30 years left for the military to pump up its Naval strength. First by peaceful means and if all fails, it’s gonna be hard power display. The showdown is gonna happen and USA is warned, meddling with the unification would mean war. Now i’d like to see if US has any balls left to face this mighty beast.


  3. Joseph says:

    Any American commitment, of course, is never absolute, if not reliably garbage at all. Recently the American gives Phillipines ‘assurance’ that it ‘will’ come to aid Phillipines militarily, under treaty if China attacks, only after Phillipines seeks to withdraw from such useless treaty. Whoa, such heroic. Isn’t it 5 years too late? War between Phillipines and China is very unlikely today. The bilateral relationship is very cordial. Phillipines is the happiest in the decades since Marcos fled to America, now the American is talking about war? If the Phillipines really needs protection, it will be Chinese protection against America, as we all need desperately that America is on war fever. In contrast, where was America 5 years ago? The American had the treaty in place, but nowhere to be seen. Not only the American neglected its treaty responsibilities, but it asked Philippines to beg aids from the so-called ‘invading’ army in disaster reliefs. The Chinese navy did land in Philippines, but in contrast of being met with resistance, the Filipino would shower them with roses and sweets if they had any. This ‘invading’ army brought humanitarian assistance rather than terror. Back then, the American mocked China for giving initial aid less than IKEA, ever wonder how much less than IKEA, American aid was? Typical. The Taiwan only enjoys security from mainland attacks only because they are fellow Chinese people. It never has anything to do with American ‘protection’. But if the shooting really starts, the first thing the American would do is to negotiate with China to secure safe passage for Americans to evacuate from Taiwan, White Americans and not even Taiwanese Americans. Just like what happened in Middle East.