TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and the United States signed their first agreement under the Biden administration, establishing a coastguard task force to coordinate policy, following China’s passage of a law authorizing its coast guards to fire at foreign ships.
The new government of US President Joe Biden has taken steps to reassure China-claimed Taiwan that its commitment to the island is solid.
Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, signed the agreement in Washington on Thursday, her office said in a statement.
“We hope that with the new Coast Guard working group, the two sides will forge a stronger partnership and together contribute even more to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Sung Kim was at the signing ceremony, the office said.
The American Taiwan Institute, which manages the United States’ relationship with the island, said the United States supports “Taiwan’s meaningful participation and contributions in matters of global concern, including security and maritime security ”.
Taiwan is modernizing its coast guard with new ships, which can be drafted into the Navy in the event of war, as the island faces increasing encroachment from Chinese fishing boats and sand dredgers in Taiwan-controlled waters.
While the United States, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is the island’s largest donor and arms supplier.
China passed a law in January that, for the first time, explicitly allows its coastguards to fire at foreign ships, raising concerns regionally and in Washington. China has brushed aside these concerns.
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday that the new Chinese law had shocked the region and that those with “common values” should work together to protect the peace.
“This unilateral demand for the coast guard to use force will cause great tension and pressure on neighboring countries,” he told reporters.
China also has maritime sovereignty disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and with several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.