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New U.S. diplomat expected to help links with Taiwan

2019/06/14 23:13:00

David Stilwell / CNA file photo

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) Relations between Taiwan and the United States could benefit from retired Air Force General David Stilwell taking over as the U.S. State Department's top diplomat for East Asia, Taiwanese scholars said Friday.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday 94-3 to approve Stilwell as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, a post that has been left vacant since April 2017.

In a written statement at his nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the former career fighter pilot said China should stop its suppression of Taiwan and resume its dialogue with the democratic government of Taiwan.

In response to the confirmation, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday praised Stilwell's familiarity with security affairs in the Asia-Pacific region and said it hoped to work with him to deepen the partnership between Taiwan and the U.S.

Asked about Stilwell's confirmation, Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Department of Diplomacy and International Relations, told CNA that Taiwan-U.S. relations have increasingly warmed up over the past two years thanks to Washington's policy to strengthen ties with Taiwan.

Relations were not hurt by the vacancy at the State Department during that time, Huang said, but Stilwell could still further advance Taiwan-U.S. relations thanks to his familiarity with Asian affairs.

Nevertheless, the U.S.'s Taiwan policy is made based on American interests and will not change because of one individual, he stressed. "To the United States, American interests come first, ahead of mutual U.S.-Taiwan interests," Huang said.

Meanwhile, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), an executive board member of Taiwan Thinktank, expected the U.S. State Department to be more active in promoting the U.S.'s Indo-Pacific Strategy after Stilwell assumes office.

Lai also expected close cooperation between Stilwell, Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and National Security Council Senior Director Matt Pottinger on U.S. security, political and defense policies.

Stilwell, who speaks Chinese and Korean, retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2015 with the rank of brigadier general after 35 years of service. He has since served as director of the China Strategic Focus Group at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii.

(By Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)
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