The de-facto Taiwanese Ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-Khim, signed an agreement with the United States on Thursday to establish a Coast Guard Working Group to co-ordinate policy at a time when China’s maritime actions have caused growing regional concerns. This is the first agreement between Taiwan and the US under the Biden Administration.
President Biden’s administration has moved to reassure Taiwan that its commitment to the island is rock solid.
In a statement released by her office Hsiao “emphasised that as a responsible stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan is ready and willing to do more in the maritime domain.”
“It is our hope that with the new coast guard working group, both sides will forge a stronger partnership and jointly contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Sung Kim, the US Acting Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs was present at the signing of the agreement, the statement said.
While the United States, like most countries, doesn’t have any formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier.
Taiwan is upgrading its coast guard with new ships, which can be drafted into naval service in the event of war, as the island deals with increasing encroachments from Chinese fishing boats and sand dredgers in Taiwan-controlled waters.
China passed a law in January that explicitly empowers its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels, something which it has defended as being in line with international practices and that is needed to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, which has caused concern in the region and in Washington and is engaged in several maritime sovereignty disputes in the East and South China sea.