By Austin Babb and Jason Wu
Hsiao Attends Biden Inauguration
Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., was formally invited to attend the inauguration of U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on January 20, the first such invitation extended to a Taiwanese diplomat in four decades. In previous years, envoys from Taiwan were granted entry to the event through admission tickets provided by U.S. legislators.
Hsiao posted a video clip of herself at the inauguration ceremony to social media, stating that she was honored to attend the event on behalf of the government of Taiwan. “Democracy is our common language and freedom is our common objective,” she said regarding Taiwan-U.S. relations. “I look forward to working with the next administration in advancing our mutual values and interests.”
Tsai and Craft Meet Virtually
President Tsai Ing-Wen and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft held a virtual meeting on January 14, during which they discussed topics such as Taiwan’s role as a force for good and its place on the world stage. Craft had originally been scheduled to visit Taiwan January 13-15, but the trip was called off – and replaced by the virtual meeting – when the State Department announced that it was canceling all foreign diplomatic trips to concentrate on the presidential transition.
In a tweet following the meeting, Craft wrote that Taiwan is a model for the rest of the world, citing Taiwan’s success in fighting COVID-19. She noted that Taiwan is also making rapid developments in the fields of health, technology, and cutting-edge science, but that due to China’s obstruction, it has been unable to share its success stories and methodologies with the international community. Craft emphasized that transparency, free sharing of information, and international cooperation are critical to overcoming the hardships brought about by the global pandemic.
Craft also made headlines in Taiwan for posting a picture of herself carrying a Formosan black bear plush toy into the General Assembly Hall of the UN.
Diplomatic Visits Held in Europe
On January 9, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that longstanding restrictions on interactions between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts would be lifted. The move was one of the last steps taken to bolster the U.S.’ unofficial ties with Taiwan in the final days of the Trump presidency.
A few days after the announcement, U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra hosted Taiwan’s representative to the country, Chen Hsing-hsing, at the U.S. embassy there. Then, on January 16, Taiwan’s representative to Switzerland David Huang met with U.S. Ambassador Edward McMullen at the U.S. embassy in Bern. During the meeting, Huang said he “extended Taiwan’s appreciation to the U.S. for the support it has shown to Taiwan’s government and people.” McMullen later tweeted that “the United States and Taiwan share common values of freedom, rule of law, and respect for human dignity.”
The lifting of restrictions on official contacts marks a new chapter in U.S.-Taiwan relations, yet some have questioned whether such a decision really brings substantive benefits to Taiwan or merely complicates the recently inaugurated Biden administration’s relationship with Beijing.
Campbell Appointed Biden’s ‘Asia Czar’
President Biden has appointed Kurt Campbell, chairman and co-founder of The Asia Group consultancy, to newly created position of Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs at the National Security Council. Campbell, who has extensive experience in the public and private sectors, served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under President Barack Obama.
Congratulating Campbell in a tweet, Taiwan representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim said he “is well known and highly respected around Asia. She added that “he has a strategic vision as well as practical experience,” and that she looks forward to working with him in the future.
Speaking remotely at an Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue held in Taipei last December, Campbell encouraged Beijing and Taipei to enter into a degree of “productive and quiet dialogue,” which he said “is in everyone’s best strategic interests.” He also stated that “there is a broad group of people across the political aisle that understand the profound significance of Taiwan and our strategic interest in maintaining a strong relationship with Taiwan.”
PLA Ramps Up ADIZ Breaches
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has recently been conducting an unusually high level of “gray zone” military activities in the Taiwan Strait. Over the past year, Chinese reconnaissance aircrafts and spy planes have frequently intruded into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) as tensions between China and the U.S. heightened, and as further steps were taken to strengthen the unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
On the day of President Biden’s inauguration, China dispatched a Shaanxi Y-8 tactical reconnaissance aircraft into the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ, prompting Taiwan to scramble its own fighter jets. It was only the latest of the series of provocative intrusions by the PLA into Taiwan’s military airspace.
According to reports from the Ministry of National Defense, the PLA breached Taiwan’s ADIZ on a daily basis from January 2 to January 7 and from January 11 to January 20. Deployed aircraft included Y-8 anti-submarine planes, Y-8 electronic warfare planes, and Y-9 electronic warfare planes.
Taiwan’s air force has responded by dispatching alert sorties, issuing radio warnings, and deploying air defense missile systems.