Washington, Oct. 18 (CNA) The United States held a meeting on Thursday that brought together Taiwan's representative to the United States Stanley Kao (高碩泰), as well as several officials from the U.S. State Department and representatives from seven of Taipei's diplomatic allies, in an effort help Taiwan keep its rapidly disappearing allies in the Western Hemisphere.
Among the top agenda in the meeting were how to strengthen cooperation between Taiwan and its allies in the Western Hemisphere through a wide range of measures to facilitate infrastructure, trade and investments, as well as the safeguarding of democratic values.
Washington has expressed serious concerns about Taiwan's loss of diplomatic allies to Beijing -- fearing China would challenge its influence in the region -- in particular after Taipei lost two diplomatic allies -- the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, both in the Pacific -- in just one week in September.
The U.S. government has threatened to punish countries that switch allegiance from Taipei to Beijing by reducing its aid to those nations and its cooperation with them.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016, Taiwan has lost six diplomatic allies, largely due to Beijing no longer refraining from forming diplomatic relations with the mostly poor and underdeveloped countries because of its tense relations with Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party.
Taiwan now has only 15 allies which have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei instead of Beijing. That has raised concerns by some U.S. officials about China's growing influence in these countries, even as the nations' leaders have defended their decision to switch ties as acting in the best interest of their people, due to increasing trade with China and Beijing's promises of large-scale infrastructure construction and other aid.
As one of the representatives from the U.S., Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said in his Twitter page that he was delighted to meet with friends from Taiwan and its allies in the Western Hemisphere.
"We stand w/ #Taiwan -- a reliable partner that delivers high-quality infrastructure development that meets international standards, respects labor rights, & protects the environment," Kozak said.
In addition to Kozak, other U.S. officials present at the meeting were Jonathan Fritz, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department for China, Mongolia, and Taiwan coordination; Julie Chung, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the State Department; as well as officials from the White House National Security Council.
Among the attendees from Taiwan's diplomatic allies were St. Lucia's Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who has just participated in Taiwan's Double Ten National Day celebration held in Taipei last week.
Besides Chastanent, chief economics and finance officials from Taiwan's other allies -- Paraguay, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines -- also made their presence in the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States tweeted that Taiwan looked forward to working with the U.S. and all of its diplomatic allies to boost trade and investments for sustainable economic growth.
The meeting was organized by Washington in conjunction with the joint annual meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Organizers said this was meant to make it more convenient for the allies to send representatives to attend the event.
The TECRO expressed gratitude to Kozak for organizing the meeting.