The United States has declassified documents dating back almost 40 years giving details of its security assurances to Taiwan, in response to what it called Beijing’s threats to the island and the region.

The diplomatic dispatches dating back to 1982 were revealed during a speech to the Heritage Foundation by David Stilwell, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

David Stilwell
David Stilwell. Photo: USGov.

The declassified information included six assurances which President Ronald Reagan gave to Taiwan, which are still in force today. They include a statement that no date for ending arms sales had been set, that the US does not seek a mediation role in the Beijing-Taipei conflict and that it would not exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with Beijing.

The US also affirmed that the US had not agreed to take any position regarding sovereignty over the island.

Stilwell reaffirmed the US’s “longstanding” commitment to support Taiwan and referred to “the increasing threat posed by Beijing to peace and stability in the region, which is a vital interest of the United States.”

Photo: Office of the President of Taiwan, via Flickr.

The diplomat said it was Beijing’s own aggressive actions which had prompted Washington to strengthen relations with Taipei.

“In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has targeted Taiwan with diplomatic isolation, bellicose military threats and actions, cyber hacks, economic pressure… These actions challenge the peace and stability of the Western Pacific. Let’s be clear: These destabilizing actions come from Beijing, not from Taipei or Washington.”

Stilwell added that the US must act to “restore balance” to the region and would “continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalize Taiwan.”

He cited the situation in Hong Kong as proof that Beijing no longer sees itself bound by its international obligations. “Looking at Hong Kong, it is clear that Beijing is willing to disregard its international obligations, to extend its authoritarian system and box in freedom-loving people.”

Deepening friendship

In his speech on Monday, Stilwell distinguished US foreign policy towards China from China’s own policy regarding what it considers to be its own regions: “The US has long had a one-China policy. This is distinct from Beijing’s ‘One China Principle’ under which the Chinese Communist Party asserts sovereignty over Taiwan. The U.S. takes no position on sovereignty over Taiwan.”

Early last month, US Health Secretary Alex Azar made a three-day official visit to meet President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei in what was the highest-profile diplomatic US visit since the US switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

Stilwell said that visit was a move to strengthen health and economic ties in a sign of “growing and deepening ties of friendship, trade, and productivity between the United States and Taiwan.”

The strengthening relations between the US and Taiwan come as the relationship between Washington and Beijing is souring.

In recent months, President Donald Trump’s administration has been placing increasing pressure on Beijing for what it considers violations of human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, placing sanctions on its top officials. Trump has also ordered all US companies to stop doing business with TikTok, a popular app owned by a Chinese company, Bytedance.

xi trump
File Photo: Wikicommons.

China sees Taiwan as one of its provinces awaiting unification, by force if necessary. US-Taiwan relations have been governed by the Taiwan Relations Act since 1979.

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.