Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States should diplomatically recognise Taiwan as “a free and sovereign country”.
Pompeo told reporters on Friday a Chinese invasion of self-governed Taiwan would depend on “the willingness of the Western world to demonstrate that the costs for [Chinese President] Xi Jinping engaging in that kind of activity are just too high”.
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Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat by Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island and vows to seize it one day – by force if necessary.
Pompeo, one of former President Donald Trump’s most hawkish advisers on China, had arrived on Wednesday for a visit at a time of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over both Taiwan and the crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing on Friday lashed out at Pompeo over his remarks, calling him “a former politician whose credibility has gone bankrupt”.
“This kind of person’s wild ravings and nonsense will never prevail,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
During an earlier speech to a think-tank, Pompeo said that while Washington should continue to engage with Beijing as a sovereign government, offering Taipei diplomatic recognition “can no longer be ignored, avoided or treated as secondary”.
“It is my view that the United States government should immediately take necessary and long-overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing, that is to offer the Republic of China [Taiwan] America’s diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country.”
The Republic of China is Taiwan’s official name.
Washington has remained Taipei’s most important ally and leading arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
But Pompeo said the move “isn’t about Taiwan’s future independence, it’s about recognition of an unmistakable, already existing reality”.
China’s ‘red line’
Beijing considers a formal declaration of independence as something that would cross its “red line” and has warned that such a step could trigger war.
Taiwan’s current leader, Tsai Ing-wen, who has been elected twice, hails from a party that historically favours independence.
But her stance is deliberately nuanced. She says there is no need to declare independence as Taiwan is already a sovereign nation.
Pompeo’s speech advocated the same position.
“As many of your past and present leaders have made clear, there’s no need for Taiwan to declare independence because it’s already an independent nation. Its name is the Republic of China,” he said.
“The people and government of the United States should simply accept this fundamentally decent, morally right thing. This is easy. The Taiwanese people deserve the world’s respect for continuing down this free, democratic and sovereign path.”
Pompeo is one of the best-known US politicians in Taiwan, in part because of his decision to lift restrictions on official contacts with Taipei on his way out of office.
Pompeo met President Tsai on Thursday, during which he received the Order of the Brilliant Star and was praised by Tsai for facilitating “multiple breakthroughs” in Taiwan-US relations.
China put sanctions on “lying and cheating” Pompeo and 27 other top Trump-era officials as President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.
‘Brutally successful takeover’
The Trump administration gave strong backing to Taiwan, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, including high-profile arms sales and visits by top US officials to Taipei.
China has stepped up its military and diplomatic pressure against Taiwan over the past two years, seeking to force the island to accept its sovereignty.
Taiwan’s democratically elected government says it wants peace but will defend itself if attacked, and only the island’s people have the right to decide their future.
Pompeo said after Beijing’s “brutally successful takeover of Hong Kong,” Xi feels more powerful and “won’t be satisfied stopping at Hong Kong”.
“Taking over Taiwan, a necessary mission, is not only to boost Xi’s egomaniacal claim of greatness, but indeed to solidify it,” Pompeo said.
Biden has continued most of the Trump-era policies towards Taiwan.