0812: China Recall Ambassador to Lithuania, New Poll on Taiwanese Identity, Senate Passes “WHO for Taiwan” Bill, New U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan

International Support for Lithuania’s Pro-Taiwan Moves After China’s Recall of Ambassador

On August 10, China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and expelled Lithuania’s ambassador to China over the Baltic country’s decision to allow Taiwan to set up the “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” In response, the officials of Lithuania, Taiwan, and the U.S. each reiterated their support for the Lithuanian government’s determination to strengthen ties with Taiwan and stand up to China.

Lithuania’s relations with Taiwan have appeared to improve since last year relative to those with China. Taiwan donated 100,000 medical face masks to Lithuania at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In March this year, Lithuania revealed a plan to establish a trade office in Taiwan. In May, Lithuania pulled out of China’s “17+1” initiative and urged other European countries to follow suit. In June, Lithuania pledged to donate 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan. In July, Taiwan announced the plan to open a “Taiwanese Representative Office” in Lithuania.

On August 10, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that China’s recall of its ambassador to Lithuania is regrettable, adding that Lithuania is “determined to pursue mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan like many other countries in the European Union and the rest of the world do.” Dovilė Šakalienė, a parliamentarian in Lithuania, tweeted “we are NOT sorry for deciding to open Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius.”

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou lauded Lithuania’s “resolute will” to defend freedom and its national dignity. The purpose of Taiwan’s offices abroad is to strengthen Taiwan’s cooperations with host countries, she said. “Taiwan’s representative office to be set up in Lithuania follows the same goal,” Ou added. “We hope to strengthen friendship between the two countries and contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the international community.”

At a press briefing on August 10, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. supports Lithuania’s efforts to develop mutually beneficial relations with Taiwan and to resist Beijing’s coercive behavior. “Well, we do stand in solidarity with our NATO ally Lithuania and we condemn the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] recent retaliatory actions, including the recall of Beijing’s ambassador from Vilnius and demanding Lithuania recall its ambassador from Beijing,” Price said.

Responses to the withdrawal of China’s ambassador from Lithuania are part of a trend of growing international support for Taiwan’s diplomacy and to recognize Taiwan as Taiwan, rather than using terms like “Taipei.” Lithuania’s move to allow Taiwan to set up a “Taiwanese Representative Office” (TRO) in the European country mirrors the ongoing U.S. legislative efforts to change the ways Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the U.S. is mentioned: in particular, changing the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to the “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO).

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202108100020
[2] Taipei Times: https://taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/08/12/2003762464

Poll: Close to 90% of Taiwanese Self-Identify as “Taiwanese” ― 70.3% Have Negative View of China

Nearly 90 percent of Taiwan’s population identify themselves as Taiwanese and about two-thirds said they are willing to fight for the country in case of war, a survey released on August 10 by the Taiwan New Constitution Foundation showed.

The question about national identity showed that 89.9 percent identify themselves as Taiwanese and 4.6 percent as Chinese, while 1 percent consider themselves to be both, the poll showed. The percentage of people who identified as Taiwanese in the survey marked a substantial increase from 83 percent last year.

Given more than one choice, 67.9 percent of respondents said they are only Taiwanese, while 1.8 percent said they are exclusively Chinese and 27.9 percent said they are both, the survey showed.

The survey also showed that 36 percent of respondents said they would absolutely go to war to defend Taiwan, while 28.3 percent said they probably would, 12.7 percent said they would not and 7.4 percent had no opinion.

Asked about Taiwan’s future, 50.1 percent of the public support maintaining the “status quo,” 38.9 percent back independence and 4.7 percent favor joining China.

Asked about their perceptions about other countries, Japan received the most positive view with 83.9 percent, followed by the US with 75.6 percent.

In contrast, 70.3 percent have a negative view of China, while only 16.4 percent have a positive view of Taiwan’s neighbor across the Strait.

More than 82 percent said they regretted that the country took part in the Tokyo Olympics under the name “Chinese Taipei,” and that the national flag and anthem could not be displayed during the Games, it said.

The poll was conducted from August 3 to 6, collected 1,071 valid samples, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

[1] Taipei Times: https://taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/08/11/2003762406

First U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan during Biden Administration Approved

On August 4, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale to Taiwan of 40 M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers, 1,698 precision guidance kits (PGK) of munitions, and other related equipment in a US$750 million deal. This is the first U.S. arms sale to Taiwan since President Joe Biden took office in January. These systems will boost Taiwan’s precision strike capability to meet current and future threats while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies.

Shu Hsiao-huang, an analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) said that the M109A6 “Paladin” howitzers fill Taiwan’s defense need as they are more agile and precise than the Taiwan Army’s current M109A2 and M109A5 howitzers. Meanwhile, F.S. Mei, director of the U.S.-based Taiwan Security Analysis Center, said that the most critical element of the latest proposed arms sale to Taiwan would be the precision-guided munitions.

The arms sale was an indication that the Biden administration has continued the previous Trump administration’s policy of “normalizing” arms sales to Taiwan (i.e., considering the arms sales on a case by case basis, rather than in bulk packages). This cases by case approach allows Taiwan to present its defense needs to the U.S. more expeditiously and helps Taiwan to acquire new defensive equipment and replace outdated weapons in a timelier manner.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office thanked the U.S. government for approving the sale of Paladin howitzers and related equipment. With the sale, the U.S. is honoring its commitment to furnish Taiwan with defensive articles under the “Taiwan Relations Act” and the “Six Assurances,” “fully demonstrating the U.S. government’s high regard for Taiwan’s defense capabilities,” Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang said.

China’s Foreign Ministry however said it was “firmly opposed” to the sales and had lodged “stern representations” with the United States. The Chinese ministry said that the sale interfered in “China’s domestic affairs,” warning that China would take countermeasures as the issue develops. The ministry also urged Washington to immediately cease all military cooperation with Taiwan to “avoid further damaging China-U.S. relations, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202108050001
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202108050019
[3] Taipei Times: https://taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/08/06/2003762118

Senate Unanimously Passes “WHO for Taiwan” Bill

On August 5, the U.S. Senate passed a bill directing the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to help Taiwan regain its observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The bill, passed by “unanimous consent” on the Senate floor, was sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The two are also co-chairmen of the Senate Taiwan Caucus.

“[D]iseases know no borders, and Taiwan’s needless exclusion from global health cooperation increases the dangers presented by global pandemics,” the bill said. With support from the U.S. and like-minded countries, Taiwan had participated in the WHO as an observer from 2009 to 2017. However, Taiwan has not been invited to participate in the WHO since 2017, after the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen began facing increased resistance from China on the international stage, the bill said.

According to the bill, the Senate directs the Secretary of State to establish a strategy for efforts to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s highest decision body, and to report annually to Congress on relevant developments.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a similar bill in March. After both chambers of the U.S. Congress agree on a unified version of the final bill, it will be forwarded to President Joe Biden to sign.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202108060016
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/08/07/2003762171