TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Breitbart News and other media outlets during a lengthy interview in his office last week that President Donald Trump’s administration’s backing of Taiwan has been “unprecedented.”
Wu, who is the highest-ranking official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China and reports directly to President Tsai Ing-wen, said the Trump administration has shown more “warmth and support” to Taiwan than anything the country has seen—and he said the people are grateful for the president’s support and will keep backing up the United States wherever they can.
“Overall speaking, the warmth and the support coming from the Trump administration these days is unprecedented and we enjoy these kinds of relationships,” Wu said in the more-than-hour-long interview with Breitbart News and other media outlets. “As a result, you can rest assured, Taiwan will continue to work with the United States on whatever kinds of issues Taiwan can make a contribution.”
Breitbart News was part of an international media delegation in Taipei last week for a series of events and briefings surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. Breitbart News was invited for a series of economic, security, and cultural briefings by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States. TECRO is Taiwan’s counterpart to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a de facto embassy of Taiwan in the U.S. This informal, unofficial arrangement is necessary because the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the communist government on the mainland, refuses to engage diplomatically with any nation that engages diplomatically with the Republic of China (ROC)—Taiwan’s government—because the PRC contends it is the rightful leader of Taiwan.
In 1979, Democrat President Jimmy Carter switched official U.S. diplomatic ties to the communist government on the mainland away from Taiwan, necessitating the establishment of informal U.S. relations with Taiwan—the Republic of China—on the island. In response to Carter’s unilateral move, a swift bipartisan effort from Congress led to the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act which has been the bedrock of U.S.-Taiwan relations for the four decades since. Taiwan, which was from the end of the Chinese Civil War until the mid-1980s a military dictatorship under martial law, has since become a democracy and thriving capitalist society—a stark contrast to the communist Chinese government on the mainland.
Last Monday evening, AIT debuted a new compound in Taipei that will serve as the institute’s headquarters during a reception with U.S. lawmakers and officials as well as top Taiwanese officials. AIT will officially move into the new headquarters next month, but Wu told the media delegation that the building and opening of the facility is a major development in U.S.-Taiwan relations.
“That is a very high symbol of U.S. commitment to Taiwan,” Wu said of the new AIT facility.
But a new building is hardly the only development in U.S.-Taiwan relations under the Trump administration. Wu pitched Taiwan as a central part of the Trump administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” or FOIPs, and argued that together FOIPs and Taiwan’s similar “Southbound Policy” serve as a counterbalance to mainland China’s influence-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR).
“Taiwan is a member of this part of the world,” Wu said. “We want to be a positive contributor to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. We not only continue to engage with the United States, we also do a lot of soul-searching on how Taiwan can be a positive force in this Free and Open Indo-Pacific. We think that there are three major pillars in this Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The first is value. We are based on the value of human rights and democracy and all that, and therefore many countries that share the same values look at Taiwan as a natural partner. The United States looks at Taiwan as a partner because we share the same values. By the same token, Japan, Australia, India—it’s the same. So, we want to work together with these countries—like-minded countries—in order to promote these values. There are other countries in this region that are very oppressive, that do not share our values, but I think the people deserve the same rights as the people in Australia, as the people in Japan, et cetera. So we are telling the United States that we want to work together with the United States to promote the values of freedom and human rights.”
Wu noted that Taiwan hosted a religious freedom summit in March with the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, who attended the first such regional event after the major kickoff of the international initiative at the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom in Washington, DC, last year.
“As you can see, we had a conference on religious freedom in March and that was the first regional conference after the ministerial in Washington, DC, [last year],” Wu said. “When the United States was looking around for the first regional conference, I raised my hand and said Taiwan will be the first and Taiwan will work with the United States. After some consideration, the United States agreed to co-host this event with us and Ambassador-at-large of religious freedom Sam Brownback was here in Taiwan to work with us. This is one of the perfect examples of how Taiwan is working with other like-minded countries to work together to promote the value of freedom and democracy. It’s not just the religious freedom issue—there are other issues as well. For example, back three weeks ago, the AIT director co-hosted a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with me to announce that we are going to have an Asia Indo-Pacific democratic consultation and it is the same. It is to promote the value of good governance.”
Across the Taiwan Strait in communist China on the mainland, however, religious freedom is non-existent. Worshipers of nearly every religion, from Uyghur Muslims to Christians, especially Catholics, to Buddhists, face persecution by the communist authorities in Beijing.
“If you look at the situation in China, they are very oppressive against their own people—against Uyghurs, against Buddhists in Tibet, against even Christian people, Catholics especially, inside China,” Wu said. “We think that’s wrong. We want to work with like-minded countries to make sure that the Chinese people see the hope in Taiwan.”
Wu also particularly pitched Taiwan’s and the United States’ regional strategies as joint efforts to counter the growing Chinese hegemony created by the communists’ One Belt One Road or Belt and Road Initiative efforts. He said the United States and Taiwan, unlike communist China, do not seek to bury those they work with in debt to create dependence—instead the U.S. and Taiwan efforts are designed to help promote regional “prosperity.”
“The second pillar in working together with the Free and Open Indo-Pacific is about regional prosperity,” Wu said. “Our new Southbound policy, and we have had that Southbound policy ever since the president took office, and it’s been working quite well—therefore the Southbound policy and Free and Open Indo-Pacific happen to coincide with each other very well. So, we will continue to work with the United States and work with Japan to make sure there are opportunities for these three countries to work together. This is a contrast to the One Belt One Road initiative. We don’t try to put other countries in debt. We just try to work with other countries to promote their prosperity. Not only are we working on Southeast Asia for the new Southbound policy, we are also working with India, we are working with the Pacific countries, to make sure that there are opportunities for these countries to benefit from Taiwan’s economic growth and Taiwan’s economic development. So we are doing all of this.”
The “third pillar” of the Trump administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy as Taiwan sees it, Wu said, is “security.”
“It’s not just traditional security,” Wu said. “We have very close security relations with the United States. To us, that is very important—but a non-traditional security area where we think it is very important for Taiwan to work with like-minded countries, for instance, is women’s empowerment. I think it is very important. Taiwan’s females are very important. Taiwan is probably one of the top countries that females are equal here. We have a female president. We have 40 percent females in our legislature here. Our female colleagues here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are absolutely competent so this is a situation we have in Taiwan but I think it’s not good enough because we hope other countries in this region can learn from Taiwan’s experience. In terms of the environment, when you are here in Taiwan it is clean.”
He also cited Taiwan’s health system as “one of the best in the world if not the best.”
“Taiwan’s health coverage is universal and the premiums we pay are very low and the coverage is very good,” Wu said. “Many countries already try to learn from our system so this is something we can share as well. Capacity building and disaster relief, whenever there is a natural disaster, these are the areas we can share with other countries. You probably heard the term ‘Global Cooperation and Training Framework’? GCTF. That framework was agreed upon between Taiwan and the United States back in 2015, and we continue to do this project with the United States to bring in regional officials and experts for training. When they go back, they bring with them Taiwan’s experience and benefit those people—and we are expanding our participation to include Japan. Just a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, Japan participated in the first round of GCTF as a full participant and they are very happy and we are very happy because it is Japan-Taiwan-U.S. trilateral cooperation to effect the regional people, the people in this region. This is what we see as Taiwan’s role in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
All of this, Wu said, amounts to an effort by Taiwan to live up to the description U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applied to Taiwan late last year, when he called the country a “force for good,” and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s description of Taiwan as an example for the world.
“And if I can tell you a little bit more about Taiwan’s contribution because Taiwan has been termed as a ‘force for good’ by Secretary Pompeo,” Wu said. “And we want to live up to that expectation so try to make contributions beyond this GCTF framework—that’s why we applied sanctions to the fullest extent. We were mentioned by Nikki Haley when she was still in the United Nations that Taiwan is an example, Taiwan’s actions can serve as a model.”
He said Taiwan even backed Trump on Venezuela, supporting President Juan Guaido over dictator Nicolas Maduro and sending aid into the country, because it wants to follow the United States’ lead in doing good in the world.
“When it comes to Venezuela, we know the Venezuelan people need help,” Wu said. “When we spoke with USAID about this issue, we said we are willing to provide care and assistance to the Venezuelan people and we did. We also got a note from President Guaido’s camp that they needed the means to transport goods from Colombia to inside Venezuela and we did—they received the means of transportation. They say they want to encourage other countries in this region to provide assistance as well or to provide moral support so I did. I personally summoned some of my ambassadors over here and told them that the people in Venezuela need help and some of them came out in a very forceful way in supporting Venezuela.”
Wu said Taiwan similarly backed the U.S. efforts to destroy the Islamic State in the Middle East, an effort that under President Trump has been successful as the caliphate has been destroyed.
“The anti-ISIS—Taiwan has nothing to do with terrorism, and will not be attacked by terrorists,” Wu said. “You know that while you are here. But since we are a part of the global community, and because the United States wanted to organize a global coalition against ISIS, we participated. We make contributions—millions and millions of dollars worth of contributions, humanitarian assistance and goods and services, and also equipment to the area including Syria. So we are part of this international effort that has been seen as a ‘force for good.’ Secretary Pompeo said in his statement to the Micronesian summit, describing Taiwan as a ‘democratic success story,’ a ‘reliable partner,’ and a ‘force for good.’ He wants to encourage other countries, he wants to support those countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. That was a very strong encouragement to Taiwan. That is from Secretary Pompeo. You can see Secretary Pompeo is different from before—he is willing to go that far in supporting Taiwan. We appreciate that very much. Since we are being described as a ‘reliable partner,’ a ‘democratic success story,’ and a ‘force for good,’ we want to make sure that Taiwan is a ‘force for good’ and that Taiwan is a ‘reliable partner’ for the United States.”
In addition to Pompeo and Haley, Wu also mentioned several other U.S. officials in the Trump administration are friends of Taiwan when asked by Breitbart News about general U.S.-Taiwan relations under President Trump.
“Other than Secretary Pompeo, I know that [Retired Air Force] General [David] Stilwell is coming into office shortly [as the U.S.’s top diplomat in East Asia],” Wu said. “He is also a good friend of Taiwan. I’m sure the people he will bring into the State Department for EAP [East Asia and Pacific nations], which deals with Taiwan directly, will also be friends of Taiwan. If you look at the National Security Council, John Bolton is a very good friend of Taiwan. And I can tell you he’s a very good personal friend of mine. You’ve probably met [Matthew] Pottinger? He’s the senior director [on the National Security Council] in charge of this area. He was a journalist before like you, and when he served in Taiwan he had a good time—people treated him nicely. When he transferred to Beijing, the Beijing authorities roughed him up and therefore you can see there is a natural inclination in Matt Pottinger to be Taiwan’s friend and we are enjoying very good relations with him. And of course there are other directors who work for Matt Pottinger and these are all wonderful friends as well. If you move to the Defense Department, Randall Schriver—the Assistant Secretary of Defense [for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs]—he is a friend of Taiwan for a long time. He has a long track record of being Taiwan’s friend and he’s a personal friend of mine as well, and he’s a personal friend of our president. So, you can see the current administration is being very friendly to Taiwan—they’re being very supportive of Taiwan. If you take one step up, Vice President Mike Pence in his Oct. 6 speech at the Hudson Institute—there was no reason for him to say this but he said it anyway—he said Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people. That encourages Taiwan. That was a time when I was in bed and my wife was sleeping already and I did not want to wake her up, but I was watching the speech on my cell phone—I was almost clapping but I did not want to wake up my wife. He has continued to show support to us including last November, in Papua New Guinea, he met with the president’s special representative Morris Chang and they exchanged opinions with each other in a very warm way.”
Wu even said that President Trump’s trade war with China is creating a “better future” for the world, as many companies are leaving mainland China or divesting their relationships across multiple countries adding that “some of them are going to the United States.”
“If you look at the bigger picture, the trade war between the United States and China may affect other countries in a negative way,” Wu said. “For example, if a country like Taiwan is doing too much business with China it’s going to be affected by the sanctions. But if you look at the longer picture, or an overall picture, I think it serves for a better future. The reason is the concerns raised by the United States are also a concern by all other countries. For instance, IPR [intellectual property rights] violations or forced technology transfers, cyber theft, and market limitation—all this. If the United States can force China to follow the international rules on all these issues, I think it’s going to create a much better world for the future. Therefore, what we hope for is that President Trump and the Trump administration’s negotiations with China can bring about a successful result that China will follow the international rules and norms.”
When it comes to Taiwan’s defense, too, when asked if Taiwan is relying on the United States to intervene militarily to defend the nation should mainland China attack it or invade the island as Chinese president Xi Jinping has threatened, Wu said that Taiwan is aiming to defend itself—and that such a decision would need to be made by the United States.
“We feel very strong support from the Trump administration to Taiwan and the war situation would be truly unfortunate and nobody wants war to happen,” Wu said. “But we are determined to defend ourselves and we want to make more investment in our own defense so we are able to defend ourselves. If you look at the service, it feels like China is a big giant with lots of modern military but I can tell you Taiwan is not defenseless. We have our air force, navy, our missile programs, that we will be able to defend ourselves. And we will continue to make investment in our defense. What we will need from the international community especially the United States is that we hope the United States will continue to supply defensive articles to Taiwan so that Taiwan can defend itself. That is said in the TRA [Taiwan Relations Act] and that is what the United States has been committed to so I think I can answer your question to this part—many people are asking whether the United States will come: It’s a decision by the United States, and we don’t want to speculate on that. But the U.S. support for Taiwan is very strong and very firm.”
As for strengthening ties between the Untied States and Taiwan even further, Wu said continued arms sales are important and that Taiwan would like to open talks with the United States for some kind of formal trade agreement given that Taiwan is already a major trading partner of the United States.
“There’s always room for improvement when it comes to international relations, when it comes to Taiwan-U.S. relations but I just want to make it certain at this point that Taiwan-U.S. relations are very good already,” Wu said. “If you want me to say what else can be even better, the arms sales have already been regularized. Look at the announcement for the air force training program. It’s probably the first part of the regularizing of arms sales. What’s also another announcement is the short-range air-to-air missiles, I think it came in early this morning in Taiwan. So all these kinds of transactions and arms sales are very good and of course, we will continue to consult with the United States on the future of Taiwan advancement. Good friends in Washington, DC, continue to provide us with expert opinions on what Taiwan needs and so we will continue to consult with them. On the defense side, I think the situation is looking quite good. On the economic side, indeed we look forward to a free trade agreement with the United States. I think it’s going to serve in the interests of Taiwan and the interests of the United States as well for strategic reasons and for economic reasons. We are one of the top trading partners of the United States. We buy a lot of American products.”