The American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei, reiterated on Thursday that security arrangements at its new Neihu compound would “remain the same as at the current site”.
“As is the practice at AIT’s current location, a small number of American personnel detailed to AIT, along with a larger number of locally hired employees, will provide security for the new office building, in cooperation with local authorities,” AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour told the island’s semi-official Central News Agency.
The comments came after the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post claimed that Washington had already confirmed it would send US security personnel, including members of its elite squad of marines, to guard the AIT’s brand new Neihu office when it becomes operational next month.
If the SCMP’s report is to be believed, then the mobilization of US Marine Corps personnel would be their first such deployment to the self-ruling island in decades, after Washington pulled out its diplomatic mission in 1979 following its rapprochement with Beijing.
Prior to Washington shifting its diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the Pentagon stationed its Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Taiwan. The group’s declared purpose was to provide consultation to the fledgling Taiwanese military in the wake of the Korean War.
Stationing Marines to protect US diplomatic missions around the world has been a standard security arrangement since the end of World War II.
However, former AIT director Kin Moy had stressed no intention to “make political statements with our security” before his departure in July.
“What we do is we bring a sufficient number of people to coordinate with local staff to ensure that the people inside our buildings are very safe,” said Moy.
That said, Taiwanese papers have revealed this month that a small number of US military personnel had already visited Taipei. Reports said they were believed to be coordinating with local security authorities for AIT’s upcoming relocation.
Former AIT chief and US consul-general to Hong Kong Stephen Young, who was often accused by Beijing of meddling in China’s internal affairs, also revealed earlier this year that a “marine house” would be established inside the new Neihu compound.
The Beijing-based nationalist paper Global Times has also sent out word that Beijing would see the move as an “invasion of Chinese soil” if US marines were to descend upon Taiwan, an island claimed by Beijing as a wayward province.