Ex-diplomat confirms that US marine force will guard de facto embassy in Taipei

A detachment of 10 to 15 marines will provide security for the American Institute in Taiwan, says one of its former directors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 10:40pm

The United States will station 10 to 15 marines at the country’s de facto diplomatic mission in Taiwan, a former US diplomat said on Friday.

In an interview on Taiwanese radio station Hit FM, William Stanton – the director from 2009 to 2012 of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which acts as the US embassy on the island in the absence of official ties – confirmed the deployment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated Beijing’s objections to any official exchanges or military ties between the US and Taipei.

“We hope the US will abide by the one-China principle [and] handle Taiwan-related issues with caution,” Geng said on Friday.

Stanton said the marine detachment would be a “small guard force” and that calling them “troops” would be “misleading”.

Another former AIT director, Stephen Young, had mentioned the planned marine security force at a seminar in Washington on Wednesday.

“It’s a tradition at all US diplomatic representatives’ offices around the world to have a detachment of marine guards to protect the facility. It is standard practice,” Stanton said.

US poised to use marine guards at de facto diplomatic mission in Taipei

Stanton added that such forces usually numbered from six or seven marines to at most 25.

He said there would likely be between 10 and 15 marines allocated to the facility in Taiwan.

The idea of a marine security force was already under discussion when he was in office at the institute under former president Barack Obama, Stanton said, and he had discussed it with officials from the administration of former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou.

He added that the decision to place marines was made, yet after he left the institute in 2012, he heard that there were doubts about it again, until Young confirmed the move on Wednesday.

He also said he found it “surprising” that his predecessor had mentioned the deployment at a public occasion, since such a statement “might anger someone”.

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“Now it is a new administration, I would imagine it [the plan] is going forward because the new administration is taking a more forward-leaning approach to Taiwan,” he said.

Stanton said he believed Taiwan-US relations would generally improve compared to the situation since 1979, when The Taiwan Relations Act was enacted in the US. It defined the non-diplomatic relationship between the countries.

Stanton said the marine force would be strictly for the protection of the US diplomatic team, and would have no military role.

The AIT’s new compound is to be situated in the Neihu district of Taipei, and is expected to be completed this year.

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Stanton said the fact that Washington was investing US$300 million in the new compound showed that it was honouring its commitments to Taiwan.

Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee Ta-wei said his government would discuss with Washington whether Taiwan would be sending a corresponding security force to its de facto embassy in the United States. Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan added that it would be up to Washington to decide whether the US marines would wear their uniforms at the AIT compound.

Additional reporting by Catherine Wong