The United States must diplomatically recognize Taiwan as “a free and sovereign country,” former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to the island on Friday.
Pompeo, one of former President Donald Trump’s most aggressive advisers on China, arrived on Wednesday for a visit at a time of mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing over both the self-ruled island and the crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Democratic Taiwan has been closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine as it lives under constant threat from Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island and vows to seize it one day — by force if necessary.
Pompeo told reporters that a Chinese invasion would depend on “the Western world’s willingness to demonstrate that the costs for (Chinese leader) Xi Jinping involved in such activities are simply too high”.
In an earlier speech to a think tank, he said that while Washington must continue to cooperate with Beijing as a sovereign government, offering Taipei diplomatic recognition “can no longer be ignored, avoided or treated as secondary”.
“I believe that the United States government should immediately take the necessary and long-awaited 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.”
The Republic of China is the official name of Taiwan.
When asked by AFP for a response to Pompeo’s comments, a State Department spokesman said, “As a general practice, we do not comment on any private individual’s travels or comments.”
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Washington has remained Taipei’s main ally and main arms supplier, despite Beijing’s diplomatic recognition in 1979.
But Pompeo said the move “is not about Taiwan’s future independence, but about recognizing an undeniable, pre-existing reality”.
– China’s ‘red line’ –
Beijing views a formal declaration of independence as something that would cross the “red line” and has warned that such a move could spark war.
Taiwan’s current leader, Tsai Ing-wen, who has won the election twice, comes from a party that has historically championed independence.
But her position is deliberately nuanced.
She says there is no need to declare independence as Taiwan is already a sovereign nation called the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Pompeo’s speech advocated the same view.
“As many of your past and present leaders have made clear, there is no need for Taiwan to declare independence as it is already an independent nation. His name is the Republic of China (Taiwan),” he said.
“The people and government of the United States should just accept this fundamentally decent, morally right thing. This is easy. The Taiwanese people deserve the respect of the world for continuing on this free, democratic and sovereign path.”
Beijing lashed out at Pompeo on Friday for his comments, calling him “a former politician whose credibility has gone bankrupt”.
“The wild ranting and nonsense of these kinds of people will never prevail,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a regular briefing.
In Taiwan, Pompeo is one of the best-known American politicians, in part because of his decision to lift restrictions on official contacts with Taipei during his departure.
Tsai met with Pompeo on Thursday, presented him with an honorary medal and praised him for facilitating “multiple breakthroughs” in Taiwan-US relations.
President Joe Biden has continued most of the Trump-era policies toward Taiwan.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai’s election in 2016.
Saber clatter in China has increased significantly in the past year, with fighter jets breaking through Taiwan’s air defense zone almost daily.