U.S. Palau ambassador's visit to Taiwan reflects proactive U.S. policy

03/29/2021 03:47 PM
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U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland / CNA file photo
U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland / CNA file photo

Taipei, March 29 (CNA) U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland, who is among a visiting delegation of the president of Palau, is the first U.S. ambassador to visit Taiwan in over 40 years, signalling that U.S. policy toward Taiwan is becoming more proactive, local scholars said Sunday.

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. arrived in Taiwan that day to formally initiate the Taiwan-Palau "travel bubble," a move that will allow travelers from both sides to visit each other's countries with fewer COVID-19 restrictions.

During a short address at the airport, Whipps noted that Hennessey-Niland, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Palau since March 2020, was present.

The visit marks the fist time a U.S. ambassador has publicly visited Taiwan since Washington cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979, according to Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a senior analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

The visit shows that the U.S. no longer treats interaction between its ambassadors and Taiwan as taboo, said Lin Ting-hui (林廷輝), deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Society of International Law.

It also shows that the U.S. is becoming more proactive in its policies toward Taiwan, he said.

In the future, Lin said he foresees more cooperation between Taiwan, the U.S. and Palau, as the three countries are working together in security and defense.

Taiwan has maritime cooperation agreements with its Pacific allies of Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands. Palau and the U.S. have cooperated on defense capabilities, and Taiwan and the U.S. recently signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen coast guard cooperation, Lin noted.

Taiwan could work with its allies and the U.S. to conduct security exercises in the Pacific or even join the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the biennial defense exercise organized every two years by the U.S., Lin predicted.

On Monday, Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party told reporters that Hennessey-Niland's visit shows that U.S.-Taiwan cooperation has become multilateral.

This multilateralism can also be seen in visits that U.S. ambassadors to the Netherlands and Eswatini have paid to their Taiwanese counterparts, which is a positive development, Lo said.

(By Matt Yu and Chiang Yi-ching)

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