US Defence Secretary James Mattis will begin a trip to Asia today, stopping first in China to discuss growing tensions between the two superpowers over a range of issues.
Today’s talks are likely to focus on concerns over the status of Taiwan. The Trump administration’s policy toward the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own has been to increase “exchanges” with the Taiwanese government. Last year, the administration approved a $1.4 billion arms sale. This year, President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages high-level visits between the two states.
While the administration has previously been less hawkish toward the Taiwan issue than other issues like Chinese trade, expect a possibly harder stance to come. While the Trump-Kim North Korea talks were dominating headlines, the US officially opened a new $250 million facility of the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy. This could potentially be a way of subtly signalling that as with the North Korea talks, Trump will be equally “tough” on China’s military build-up in the region in general.
Keep an eye on the administration’s rhetoric toward Taiwan, and especially how and if hawkishness toward North Korea—assuming denuclearisation falters—corresponds with a harder stance over Taiwan.
Nick is the Director of the Daily Brief and a contributing Senior Analyst to it. An attorney, his areas of expertise include international law, international and domestic criminal law, security affairs in Europe and the Middle East, and human rights.