LAULY LI and CHENG TING-FANG, Nikkei staff writers, and THOMPSON CHAU, Contributing writer
TAIPEI — On his first ever trip to Taipei, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the U.S. should formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation while continuing to diplomatically engage with China.
“The United States government should immediately take necessary and long overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing which is to offer the Republic of China (Taiwan) America’s diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country,” Pompeo said in a speech, referring to Taiwan’s formal name.
In the speech at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei hosted by local think tank Prospect Foundation. Pompeo said it is imperative to change 50 years of U.S. ambiguity on Taiwan.
“It’s about America’s diplomatic recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan), while the United States would continue to engage with the People’s Republic of China as a sign of the government,” he said. “America’s diplomatic recognition of the 23 million freedom-loving Taiwanese people, and its legally, democratically elected government can no longer be ignored,” Pompeo added.
Washington’s former top diplomat said there is “no need for Taiwan to declare independence, because it’s already an independent nation.”
The comments by Pompeo, a Republican, go against official U.S. policy. Washington switched its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan for China in 1979, but in recent years, lawmakers from both major American parties have called for closer ties with Taipei.
Governments across the world are wrestling with what their formal relationship with Taiwan should. Last Sunday, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Washington to drop its “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would come to the defense of Taiwan if it came under attack.
Pompeo’s visit comes amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the imposition of economic sanctions by nations across the globe aimed at curbing President Vladimir Putin’s military aggression. Many people in Taiwan, a key Asian tech economy that Beijing views as a part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to take, are concerned that the situation in Europe may raise the odds of conflict across the Taiwan Strait.
Pompeo warned that taking over Taiwan by China would change the global balance of power in the most fundamental way. “Losing Taiwan would directly imperil our vital national interest in the United States,” he said.
His visit has angered Beijing. Asked about his trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “The relevant actions from Pompeo are despicable and inevitably a futile effort.”
He urged the U.S. to support Taiwan in the way it defended West Germany during the Cold War, and argued that the “flourishing of Taiwan should be justly celebrated.” Pompeo said that if the U.S. did not stand up against Chinese aggression, Beijing may not only want Taiwan, but also expand its forces to South China Sea, and other places.
Citing that western sanctions and defense response came only after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he argued that ambiguity over Taiwan is not helpful in deterring Chinese aggression.
Pompeo arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, on the heels of a delegation of former top defense and security officials sent by the Biden administration. The former secretary of state met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and had dinner with Vice President William Lai and Morris Chang, founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., on Thursday night.
His speech is the highlight of his four-day tour of Taiwan. Pompeo was awarded a civilian honor, the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon, by Tsai in recognition of his contributions in promoting U.S.-Taiwan ties during his tenure as America’s top diplomat under then-President Donald Trump.
Also Friday, Pompeo spoke of the importance of reducing reliance on Chinese technologies, again stressing that the software, hardware and applications of Huawei Technologies and Tiktok could be threats to security.
“So I mentioned Huawei. All the technology, this software and hardware that we know that the Chinese Communist Party is using to steal information, or at the very least to warehouse information. I can’t tell you how many kids are on Tik Tok in the United States. I can tell you one thing about every one of those kids who have their information in a database inside of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.
“We can be certain that information that they gather will be used against us,” he said.