Taiwan Government and International – May 2019

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan led the American delegation to ceremonies in Taipei observing the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. Photo: Matti Chen

U.S., Taiwan Observe 40 Years of the TRA

To participate in celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act and establishment of the American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S. sent a delegation to Taiwan led by former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan. The delegation also included Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and AIT Chairman James Moriarty.

An AIT banquet at its new office complex in Neihu was attended by dignitaries from both the United States and Taiwan, including President Tsai, former President Ma Ying-jeou, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan, representatives from the U.S. Congress and Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, and prominent central and local government officials and business leaders.

Ryan was considered a relatively low-profile choice to head the U.S. delegation, as he is no longer in office.

US Ships Traverse Taiwan Strait

The U.S. military sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait at the end of April, reportedly the seventh such transit since July 2018. The two destroyers were identified as the USS William P. Lawrence and USS Stethem. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

A French warship also passed through the Taiwan Strait at the end of April, U.S. officials told Reuters. Sources close to the French defense minister told the wire service that France conducts such transits about once a year, but it was highly unusual for the U.S. to make it public. It was a sign that the U.S. and its allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation rights in waterways they consider international. Sources said the warship, the French frigate Vendemiaire, had been shadowed by the Chinese navy.

Chinese Jets Cross Strait’s Center Line

Two People’s Liberation Army Air Force jets in late March crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and flew 80 kilometers into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s airspace, causing a dangerous 10-minute standoff with intercepting Taiwanese military planes. It was the first deliberate intrusion from PLAAF aircraft since 1999, when former President Lee Teng-hui defined cross-Strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship.

Although the median line is not an article of international law and not officially recognized by either side, adherence to the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait has long contributed to stability and mitigated the risk of accidents. “This [intrusion] was very much planned, calculated and with the purpose of intimidating Taiwan,” said Randy Schriver, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

China continues to regularly deploy warships and fighter jets dangerously close to Taiwan. In mid-April – the day before Taiwan was to celebrate 40 years of the Taiwan Relations Act jointly with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) – a fleet of Chinese aircraft, including at least one bomber jet, flew over waters separating Taiwan and the Philippines.

HK Bookseller Flees to Taiwan

A Hong Kong bookseller who was once detained by China is now seeking refuge in Taiwan. Lam Wing-kee, the former manager of Causeway Bay Books, says Hong Kong will no longer be safe after proposed new laws are enacted allowing extradition to the mainland. Lam, who sold books critical of China’s leaders and their private lives, was detained along with five other Hong Kong booksellers in 2015.

He was later allowed to return to Hong Kong on bail for a brief visit, but stayed on with the status of a fugitive, protected by Hong Kong’s lack of an extradition law. But the Hong Kong legislature is now expected to enact a law in the next few months permitting individuals, including foreigners, to be extradited to a specified number of jurisdictions, including China, for trial.

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