The United States should bolster ties with democratic Taiwan and pursue “strategic decoupling” with China’s communist regime after decades of “naive engagement,” according to former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“China’s aggressive conduct, diplomatically, militarily, economically … have changed this region. And it brought those who prefer peace and commerce even more closely together,” Pompeo said on Tuesday a day after he arrived in Taiwan as part of a four-day visit.
“If we want a free 21st century and not the Chinese century, the century which [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping dreams of, the old paradigm of blind engagement must end,” he continued.
Pompeo, who was the top U.S. diplomat under former President Donald Trump, made his remarks while attending the Global Business Forum in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.
“America must choose instead to engage with China realistically and on our terms, the terms of freedom,” which would include “a deeper and far more enthusiastic relationship with Taiwan,” he said.
The United States had hoped to improve China’s political and economic security by engaging with Beijing, according to Pompeo. But such hopes “had not met even the most minimal objective.”
“After decades of naive engagement with China, Americans have recognized there was nothing free nor fair about that trade,” he said.
“Trade with China has been unlikely and will not be, in the near future, remotely free. Fair trade for the world is impossible to achieve with countries that do not respect the rule of law, basic property rights, the capacity to enforce agreements.”
‘Already an Independent Nation’
Pompeo is the latest foreign politician to visit Taiwan amid the Chinese regime’s escalated military operation against the self-ruled island.
The communist regime in China views the self-ruled island as its own territory to be taken, by force if necessary. Beijing is against any official exchanges between Taipei and other governments around the world that might suggest the island’s de facto nation-state.
The last time Pompeo visited Taiwan was in March, during which he called on the United States to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Pompeo reiterated such a viewpoint on Tuesday.
“Taiwan does not need to declare its independence because it is already an independent nation,” he told the audience.
“The fact is that no Americans who visit Taiwan and China would mistake either of these places for being the same country. One is free. One is not. One is an ally of the United States. The other is a repressive adversary,” he said.
“We recognized this basic fact in the Trump administration and started moving American policy. This is our business to continue success towards a greater understanding and recognition of that.”
The United States ended the formal ties with Taipei in 1979 and switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing. But Washington maintains a robust unofficial relationship with Taipei and is legally bound to provide the island nation with the arms necessary to defend itself.
Pompeo expressed concern about President Joe Biden’s recent “muddled and confusing statement” over a longstanding U.S. position of “strategic ambiguity.” Such a policy means U.S. administrations have been deliberately vague on whether they would defend the island in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Yet Biden said earlier this month that the United States would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, marking the fourth time Biden pledged U.S. military intervention. Like the previous times, the White House quickly rolled back the president’s comment, saying the U.S. policy has not changed.
“Concerning America’s true commitment to Taiwan, the ambiguity that had been American policy has now become even more ambiguous,” Pompeo said on Tuesday. “This concerns me greatly.”