TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and the United States signed their first agreement under the Biden administration, establishing a Coast Guard Task Force to coordinate policy, following the passage of a law by China allowing the coast guard to shoot foreign vessels.
The new administration of US President Joe Biden has moved to reassure Taiwan, which claims China, that its commitment to the island is rock solid.
Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, signed the agreement in Washington on Thursday, her office said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that with the new Coast Guard Task Force, both sides will forge a stronger partnership and jointly contribute even more to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Affairs Sung Kim was at the signing ceremony, the office said.
The American Institute in Taiwan, which manages US ties to the island, said the United States supported “Taiwan’s meaningful engagement and contributions to issues of global concern, including maritime security.”
Taiwan is upgrading its coast guard with new ships, which can be recruited for naval service in the event of war, as the island faces increasing invasions from Chinese fishing boats and sand dredgers in Taiwanese-controlled waters.
While the United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s largest international arms sponsor and supplier.
China passed a law in January that, for the first time, explicitly allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels, raising concern regionally and in Washington. China has rejected those concerns.
Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said on Friday that China’s new law had shocked the region and that those with “common values” must work together to protect the peace.
“This unilateral request that the Coast Guard use force will cause great tension and pressure in neighboring countries,” he told reporters.
China also has maritime sovereignty disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and with several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.
Ben Blanchard Report