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18 Apr, 2022 09:59

US should station troops in Taiwan – John Bolton

Republican hawk wants policy reversal to situation prior to 1979 rapprochement with China
US should station troops in Taiwan – John Bolton

Taiwan should ramp up its military cooperation with the US and start hosting American troops on its soil as it did before the 1979 switch of diplomatic recognition to Beijing, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton proposed at a policy event on Saturday.

Both the Washington and Taipei should boost military spending on the island’s defense, Bolton insisted, adding that the formal stationing of American troops could be part of a solution to the threat from China.

The US maintained a military presence on Taiwan between 1950 and 1979, with as many as 19,000 troops deployed during the period. This changed with the Nixon-era rapprochement with Beijing, which culminated in Washington’s change of diplomatic recognition of China to the mainland under Jimmy Carter.

However, the US kept informal diplomatic, trade and military relations with Taipei, including by keeping some military personnel as trainers and advisors, as well as guards at the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy. The presence of US military personnel in Taiwan had long been an open secret, although last October Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made an escalatory move by openly acknowledging their presence on the self-governed island.

Bolton, who is seen as one of America’s most hawkish officials, has long advocated beefing up the number of American troops in Taiwan and taking other steps toward what he describes as deterring an aggressive China. According to Foreign Policy magazine, he managed to push through a troop surge in Taiwan when he was advising the Trump administration. This policy was continued by President Joe Biden.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and has repeatedly warned the US against supporting any separatist sentiment there. Another uptick in tension over the island was expected last weekend, when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was supposedly scheduled to visit. Beijing said such a move would cross its “red line.” However, the trip was postponed, reportedly due to Pelosi having tested positive for Covid-19.

Bolton made his proposal at the annual Global Taiwan National Affairs Symposium, a high-profile event organized by groups that want the island to formally declare itself a sovereign nation. Senior Taiwanese officials, including President Tsai and Vice President William Lai, were among the speakers.