As communist China conducts multiple military drills and other hostile moves against democratic Taiwan, the Trump administration is ramping up U.S. support for its beleaguered island ally of 24 million. In the immediate wake of second transit by a U.S. warship through the Taiwan straits on Sunday, Trump’s national security team publicly declassified commitments made to Taiwan during the Reagan administration.
Reagan’s Six Assurances describe how U.S. arms sales and diplomatic support to Taipei will move forward regardless of any pressure from Beijing. Those commitments also included pledges that the U.S. wouldn’t alter its view on Taiwan’s sovereignty, and it would not set a date for ending arms sales.
The remaining four points are that the U.S.:
- Has not agreed to consult with the PRC [People Republic of China ] on arms sales to Taiwan
- Will not play a mediation role between Taipei and Beijing
- Has not agreed to revise the Taiwan Relations Act
- Will not exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into negotiations with the PRC.
The Reagan-era diplomatic cables “underscored Washington’s commitment to Taiwan’s future being determined free of coercion from China,” writes Bloomberg. “The reveal of the Six Assurances, the Taiwan Strait sailings, US arms sales, the recent visit of a US Cabinet secretary — the highest-ranked US government official to step foot in Taipei in decades — are very visible and deliberate shows of support for the island,” noted CNN.
The message now? U.S. policy toward Taiwan today still follows the commitments made by President Reagan in the early 1980s and Beijing needs to know that increased belligerence or a military buildup by China will only provoke increased US arms sales to Taipei.
The declassified cables were released Monday on the website of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. In a statement on its website, the Institute stated:
The cable explains that the U.S. willingness to reduce its arms sales to Taiwan is conditioned upon the continued commitment of the PRC to a peaceful solution of cross-Strait differences. Further, if the PRC were to become more hostile, then the United States would increase arms sales to Taiwan.
The Institute’s statement concludes by noting that Reagan’s “Six Assurances” have been a foundational element in U.S. policy towards Taiwan and the PRC, and the cable ends by offering “this final assurance: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will continue.”
China’s response was swift and angry. A Chinese government spokesperson called Washington’s Six Assurances “illegal and invalid,” according to the state-run Xinhua news service, reported CNN.
“Relying on the so-called ‘Six Assurances’ by the United States to seek ‘Taiwan independence’ will only lead to self-inflicted disasters,” said a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing, added CNN.
Short of explicitly declaring that the U.S. will defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, Trump’s message is the strongest ever made in public U.S. support for Taiwan in over 40 years.