Washington should formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 4 during a speech in Taipei. He said it is an imperative move that “can no longer be ignored, avoided, or treated as secondary.”
“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,” he said in a 20-minute speech.
Pompeo, who was the top U.S. diplomat under former President Donald Trump, was invited by Taiwan think tank Prospect Foundation to give a speech at the Grand Hyatt on Friday.
He arrived in Taiwan on March 2 for a four-day visit, as another five-member delegation sent by President Joe Biden wrapped up a two-day visit after meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen. Pompeo called on Washington to change its policy of “strategic ambiguity,” wherein the United States neither openly confirms nor denies it will militarily safeguard Taiwan.
“While the United States should continue to engage with the People’s Republic of China as a sovereign government,” said Pompeo, “America’s diplomatic recognition of the 23 million freedom-loving Taiwanese people and its legal, democratically-elected government can no longer be ignored, avoided, or treated as secondary.”
“This isn’t about Taiwan’s future independence. It’s about recognition of an unmistakable, already existing reality. … There’s no need for Taiwan to declare independence because it’s already an independent country.”
The same opinion was expressed by Tsai in a previous interview with BBC. “We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China,” she said.
Pompeo’s call does not align with the current official U.S. policy. The United States ended formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 and gave diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Yet Biden said last October that the United States was committed to defending Taiwan if the self-ruled island was attacked by the Chinese regime. Such remarks were seen as a departure from a long-held U.S. position of “strategic ambiguity.”
Pompeo’s comments angered Beijing.
“Pompeo is a former politician whose credibility has long gone bankrupt. Such a person’s babbling nonsense will have no success,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday at a press briefing in Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims Taiwan as its own territory and considers the island as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States. Beijing has routinely harassed Taiwan and threatened to unite it with the mainland by force if necessary.
“China’s saber-rattling against Taiwan comes from fear and paranoia,” said Pompeo, calling the democratic island “a living example of the success of freedom and democracy” that is dismissed in China, including Hong Kong.
“So long as this exists,” he said, “it severely undermines the credibility and authority of the CCP, especially with the Chinese people who are under their thumb.”
It is my view that the U.S. 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.— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) March 4, 2022
Future of Taiwan and US Intertwined
If the Chinese regime successfully seizes Taiwan, it would change the global balance of power “in the most fundamental ways, decidedly in the CCP’s favor,” Pompeo said during his Friday speech, given Beijing has been touting its rise over American decline.
“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] believes that it is stronger than the West and that America is in decline. We saw this when Yang Jiechi gave an arrogant tirade against the United States and anchorage during their very first meeting with the Biden administration.”
Pompeo was referring to the first high-level, in-person bilateral meeting in Alaska last March when Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Yang, China’s senior foreign policy diplomat. The latter criticized Washington’s foreign and trade policies, and claimed that democracy is failing and minorities are treated poorly in America.
“This arrogance, this belief that the West is weak makes Xi [Jinping] dangerous,” said Pompeo. “The very belief that the PRC could prevail in a diplomatic, economic, military confrontation puts our friends at risk and makes the conflicts much greater.”
As America is the most decisive backer of Taiwan’s freedom against China’s aggression, said Pompeo, the future of the two nations are closely intertwined.
He said Beijing also considers seizing Taiwan as the ultimate goal of its decades-long communist ideological commitment, and failure to do so is “a major stain” of the CCP’s reputation at home.
“Under Xi, the CCP’s ideological hubris has reached new heights. Thus, taking over Taiwan [as] a necessary mission is not only to boost Xi’s egomania claim of greatness, but indeed to solidify it.”
The Trump administration had pushed for arms sales and laws to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China, and support for its participation in major international organizations.
On March 3, Tsai presented Pompeo with the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon in recognition of his contributions to promoting Taiwan-U.S. relations.
Addressing reporters following his speech, Pompeo said that Taiwan and Ukraine face similar risks, each having to deal with an authoritarian regime that wants to “use aggressive military force to bully around smaller nations.”
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Xi on Feb. 4 before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Following their meeting, the two leaders declared a “no limits” partnership, according to a 5,000-word joint statement.
The statement also reveals that the two nations support each other’s geopolitical stance: Moscow supports Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, while Beijing denounces the enlargement of NATO—a political justification for Putin to invade Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled speculation that the Chinese regime could be emboldened to invade Taiwan. Events unfolding in Ukraine since the start of the invasion might have now given Xi “great pause” about launching military action against Taiwan, Pompeo said, but he warned that the CCP poses more than just military threats.
“Much of what Xi does to the world isn’t military. Much of what he does is diplomatic. It is information warfare. It is economic warfare,” he explained.
“We have to confront the Chinese Communist Party in every dimension.”
He criticized Xi for Beijing’s failure to use its role as a member of the United Nations Security Council to condemn Russia for attacking a sovereign state.
“I don’t think we should give any quarter to Xi Jinping, in terms of him having tried to play this both ways. Xi Jinping has not done the things that nations must do when other nations are attacked, and are victims of aggression,” he said.
Beijing has said it respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, but has refused to denounce Russia for its aggression against its neighbor or calling Russia’s attack an invasion. On Feb. 25, the communist regime abstained from voting on a U.S. National Security resolution demanding Moscow to stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its troops immediately.
Pompeo warned that if Xi provided Putin an economic lifeline, then China’s financial sector would face consequences.
“I hope that the world will make very clear to Xi Jinping that if he runs afoul of one of these sanctions regimes, that it could be Chinese banks that are next, it could be Chinese financial institutions more broadly that are next,” he said.
He added: “And this will convince China to deny that oxygen, deny that fuel for Vladimir Putin to have the resources to continue his campaign that has deep ramifications for how Russia might participate, [if it] were the case that Xi Jinping ever decided to make an aggressive military action in Asia.”
Pompeo was asked to assess the possibility that Beijing could invade Taiwan in the “next six years,” a timeline suggested by Adm. Philip Davidson, who was then-head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, during a congressional hearing in March 2021.
He responded, “You can’t answer how likely it is in a static way because it [depends] on the willingness of the Western world to demonstrate that the cost for Xi Jinping engaging in that kind of activity is just too high.”