The new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound is slated for opening on June 12. There was speculation within Taiwan that American President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton, or officials of the same level, may attend the unveiling ceremony, but the US State Department announced on Sunday that an assistant secretary of state will be dispatched to visit Taipei and attend the ceremony.
Assistant secretary of state is the highest level American official to visit Taiwan since the US severed diplomatic ties with the island.
Earlier reports that the US Marine Corps would be posted at the new AIT facility and oversee its security have since been disproven. Many US embassies and consulates are guarded by the marine corps. Although the AIT fulfills certain state functions of embassies and consulates such as issuing US visas, nominally, it is a non-profit private organization.
A larger AIT compound indicates Washington will increase the number of personnel stationed in Taiwan and the Taiwan card will carry more weight in US strategy toward China. Washington will become more active in provoking China over the Taiwan question.
The Congress has passed the Taiwan Travel Act and the National Defense Authorization Act is getting more aggressive regarding the Taiwan question. Will higher level American officials visit AIT at its official launch? This could be used as a bargaining chip of Washington against China.
Beijing must stop Washington's salami-slicing tactic toward Taiwan but this cannot be achieved through trading interests. As friction over the Taiwan question may escalate, we must make corresponding contingency plans and strive for taking the initiative.
First, we can't be led by the nose by the US. We must build leverage to deal with the US and Taiwan, let both parties know they will pay the price no matter what provocations they make.
We must draw a red line for the US and Taiwan. Once crossed, a serious Taiwan Straits crisis will be triggered. For instance, visits by US warships to Taiwan or direct participation of American troops in Taiwan defense will disrupt the entire cross-Straits situation.
The US State Department viewed the AIT building dedication in Taipei as "a milestone" in US-Taiwan relations. Similarly, Taiwanese authorities have attached unprecedented importance to the matter. The reason why Washington is further activating Taiwan as a chess piece and Taiwan is desperately clinging to the US is because they found it more difficult to deal with the mainland. The mainland must continue to build up its deterrence against Taiwanese authorities, making them know that the US cannot be their savior.
A closer relationship with the US is not better for Taiwan. There are also risks for the US to play the Taiwan card. The US and Taiwan need to realize this.