U.S. ambassador to Palau visits Taiwan, stresses trilateral ties will only get closer

U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland, who is visiting Taiwan, said Tuesday in Taipei that Taiwan and Palau are true friends of the United States in the region and that the three-way relationship will grow closer.

John Ni accompanied Palauan President Surangel Whipps, Jr. to Taiwan on Sunday (March 28), sparking widespread concern. Palau (known as Palau in Taiwan) is one of Taiwan’s 15 remaining diplomatic relations.

The theme of the visit was to establish a “tourism bubble” between Taiwan and Palau to allow people in Taiwan and Palau to travel through a “sterile corridor” without segregation.

On Tuesday, John Ni met with reporters in Taipei before a luncheon with AIT Director W. Brent Christensen and Taiwan Foreign Minister Wu Chiu-sup. John Ni said, “It is an honor to visit Taiwan with Palau President Huizhong to witness the official departure of the travel bubble between Taipei and Koror on April 1. I believe this will be the first two-way tourism corridor to be launched in the Indo-Pacific region since the global outbreak of the new crown Epidemic, and perhaps even the first in the world.”

“As U.S. Ambassador to Palau, ensuring the safety of the people and giving them hope is the most important focus. Working with each other and our friends and partners in the Pacific, we can achieve important results.” He said.

He concluded his message by saying, “I know that in Taiwan, people describe the U.S.-Taiwan relationship as ‘true friends, true progress,’ and I think that expression applies to all three countries – the United States, Taiwan and Palau – as well.”

Taiwan Foreign Minister Wu Chiu-sup said the three parties – Taiwan, the U.S. and Palau – have a close working relationship on efforts such as the fight against the new crown epidemic. He said, “This Time, the U.S. side actually contributed very much behind the scenes in making the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble work. Since January, the U.S. has been providing Palau with these related necessary materials, especially vaccines, so that the people of Palau can have more confidence to start this tourism program. In addition to the medical supplies or vaccines provided by the U.S. …… we in Taiwan have also provided Palau with many necessary medical supplies and epidemic prevention materials.”

He also mentioned that the “Pacific Dialogue” framework between Taiwan and the United States has close and in-depth interaction with “all of our Pacific friends” including Palau. He said, “To ensure that our supplies with the U.S. are mutual, to ensure that all our friends can receive these warmth from Taiwan and the U.S., these activities we will continue. There is something about Palau’s relationship with Taiwan, or our relationship with the United States, with Palau, has always been very close.”

Wu Chiu-sup emphasized, “From this visit of Ambassador John Ni to Taiwan, you can see that the relationship will only get closer.”

For its part, China expressed its opposition to direct exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officials the day before, warning the U.S. not to touch the bottom line. At a regular press conference on March 29, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he noted that the U.S. ambassador to Palau was part of Palau’s delegation to Taiwan. “The ‘one China’ principle is the political foundation of U.S.-China relations, and China is firmly opposed to any form of official U.S.-Taiwan exchanges,” he said.

He said China demands that the U.S. stop official U.S.-Taiwan exchanges and “not try to break through China’s bottom line.”

Lin Ting-hui, deputy secretary general of the Taiwan Society of International Law, told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that the U.S. ambassador to Palau, who is an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary and can represent the United States and the U.S. president, visited Taiwan to reflect that the U.S. side no longer clings to the framework of the Taiwan Relations Act and is not shy about engaging with Taiwan through the ambassador’s official official relations.

Then-President Trump signed the Taipei Act on March 26, 2020, aimed at strengthening Taiwan’s diplomatic relations with its Indo-Pacific regional partners.

Trump also signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March 2018. The Act encourages the exchange of visits between U.S. and Taiwanese officials at all levels.