TAIPEI/BEIJING - The United States will station 10 to 15 marines at the country’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, a former US diplomat said on Friday (Feb 17), in a move set to incur China's anger.
In an interview on Taiwanese radio station Hit FM, William Stanton – the director from 2009 to 2012 of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which acts as the US embassy on the island in the absence of official ties – confirmed the deployment.
Another former AIT director, Stephen Young, had mentioned the plan at a seminar in Washington on Wednesday.
Stanton said there would likely be between 10 and 15 marines allocated to the facility in Taiwan. The detachment would be a “small guard force” and that calling them “troops” would be “misleading”, he added
“It’s a tradition at all US diplomatic representatives’ offices around the world to have a detachment of marine guards to protect the facility. It is standard practice,” Stanton was quoted as saying according to South China Morning Post.
Stanton said the marine force would be strictly for the protection of the US diplomatic team, and would have no military role.
The disclosure came only days after US President Donald Trump agreed to honour Washington's "one China" policy in his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Bilateral ties had been strained after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen phoned Trump on Dec 2 to congratulate him on his election, the first such contact between the two sides’ leaders since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
Trump had incensed Beijing further last month when he said everything was up for negotiation in US-China ties, including Washington’s “one China” policy.
Earlier on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Geng Shuang repeated Beijing's insistence that the US should adhere to the one-China policy and properly handle issues regrading Taiwan, in response to a question on the marine detachment at the AIT.
“We hope the US will abide by one-China policy and principles of the three China-U.S joint communiques,” said Geng.
“China has always objected US-Taiwan connections through official and military channels,” Geng said, adding that China will keep an eye on the situation.
The AIT’s new compound is to be situated in the Neihu district of Taipei, and is expected to be completed this year.
Stanton said the fact that Washington was investing US$300 million in the new compound showed that it was honouring its commitments to Taiwan, which it is obligated to defend under a bilateral pact.
Taiwan's Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said it would be up to Washington to decide whether the US marines would wear their uniforms at the AIT compound, SCMP reported.
Taiwa's foreign minister David Lee said his government would discuss with Washington whether Taiwan would send a corresponding security force to its de facto embassy in the United States.