0916: Renaming TECRO to “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO), Senate Confirmation of AIT Director, Blinken’s Calling Taiwan “Country”

Time for TECRO to Change Name to “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO)

If the name of Taiwan’s mission in the U.S. capital could be renamed from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” (TECRO) to “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO), the change would support Lithuania’s difficult decision to host a “Taiwanese Representative Office” and prompt other allies to follow suit.

On September 10, the Financial Times reported that the U.S. was “seriously considering a request from Taiwan” to change TECRO’s name to “Taiwan Representative Office,” and that National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell has backed the change. While the request has earned wide support in the National Security Council and from State Department Asia officials, the final decision lies with President Joe Biden, who would need to sign an executive order before the office’s name can be changed, the report said.

The Financial Times also reported that on September 10, senior U.S. government officials held a round of sensitive talks known as the “Special Channel” in Annapolis, Maryland with a Taiwanese delegation, which included Taiwan’s National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. The report added that the “Special Channel” meeting marks the first time the Biden team has engaged in high-level, in-person talks with Taiwan. Such meetings have been traditionally kept under wraps to avoid antagonizing Beijing.

Renaming TECRO to “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO) is one objective that Taiwanese Americans have been striving for over many years, and it has garnered increasing support from U.S. lawmakers. In December last year, 78 U.S. House Representatives wrote to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to request for, among other things, renaming TECRO to TRO. Moreover, the “Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act,” introduced in the House in this May, and the “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act” (EAGLE Act), passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in July, also advocated for TECRO’s name change.

The TECRO’s name change to TRO might look like a symbolic step, but the change is also a substantive move that not only would lend more dignity and respect to the 23 million people of Taiwan but also could consolidate U.S. leadership among democratic allies.

If a “Taiwan Representative Office” could sit in Washington D.C., it would be a powerful support to Lithuania’s decision to host a “Taiwanese Representative Office” in Vilnius” under China’s pressure, and it could engage other allies to join the U.S. effort and make “Taiwan” offices “a new normal” across the world.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2021/09/12/2003764215
[2] Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/07810ece-b35b-47e7-a6d2-c876b7b40444
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109110004

U.S. Representatives Support TECRO’s Name Change to TRO – Chabot: Time for Senate Confirmation of AIT Director and Strategic Clarity

During an online event held by the Washington-based German Marshall Fund on September 14, co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) voiced his support for renaming the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” (TECRO) in Washington D.C. to “Taiwan Representative Office” (TRO). He added that it was also infuriating for him to see Taiwan being referred to as “Chinese Taipei” at the Olympic Games last month.

Chairman of the House Asian Subcommittee Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) echoed Chabot’s views and said that the U.S. could gain some bargaining chips from the discussion about renaming TECRO to TRO, adding that the name change move should be considered under a larger strategic framework.

While some have said renaming TECRO to include “Taiwan” in its name could anger China, Chabot said China gets annoyed at the smallest things, not merely issues that it thinks infringe on its sovereignty. He added that some might say changing the TECRO name might be merely symbolic, but on Taiwan issues “symbolism IS substance.”

Chabot also called on Washington to change the title of the director of the American Institute in Taiwan to “representative.” The nomination procedure should be made identical to that for other ambassadors, needing the U.S. Senate’s approval, he said.

In his closing remarks, Chabot called for “Strategic Clarity” toward Taiwan’s defense as opposed to “Strategic Ambiguity” – an outdated policy the U.S. has adhered to for the past forty years and has become insufficient to deter China’s increasing aggression toward Taiwan.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/09/16/2003764461
[2] Central News Agency (CNA): https://www.cna.com.tw/news/firstnews/202109150005.aspx

Secretary Blinken Reiterates U.S. Commitment to Taiwan, While Calling Taiwan “Country” Again

On September 13, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated U.S. commitment to Taiwan and referred to Taiwan as a “country” again during a congressional hearing on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, amid concerns that the U.S. might not come to its allies’ defense in the event of a crisis.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick told Blinken that U.S. allies like Taiwan and Ukraine are scared the United States does not have their backs after witnessing U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan, which led to the country’s takeover by the Taliban. Fitzpatrick asked Blinken if the U.S. will “do whatever it takes” to support Ukraine and Taiwan from Russian and Chinese aggression, respectively.

“Absolutely, we stand by our commitments to both countries,” Blinken responded, citing the U.S. commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. It was the second time since March that Secretary of State Blinken had publicly referred to Taiwan as a “country,” the term so far often avoided by U.S. officials.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) thanked the U.S. for reaffirming its firm support. MOFA said Taiwan would continue to bolster its self-defense capabilities and deepen relations with the U.S. and others to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait and “contribute to the long-term stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”

Reached on September 14 after Blinken called Taiwan “country” earlier this week, a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek that the U.S.’s “One China policy” remains unchanged. “Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” the spokesperson said, adding that “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109140005
[2] Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/pressed-chinese-aggression-antony-blinken-calls-taiwan-country-again-1628771
[3] Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/no-change-one-china-policy-us-says-after-antony-blinkens-taiwan-comments-1629246