Taiwan has played host to a week-long program by the FBI for the first time. The conference last week saw President Tsai Ing-wen and the FBI’s Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate compare notes on intelligence and security matters.

The FBI National Academy chose to hold a training session for 170 senior law enforcement officers from 20 nations across the Asia-Pacific region in Taiwan.

Tsai said the move was “a testament to the island’s importance to rule of law in the international community”. She voiced hope that Taiwan’s intelligence-sharing networks would “expand across East and Southeast Asia.”

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen attends the opening ceremony of an FBI training program held in Taipei last week.
FBI Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate is the highest-ranking official from the US security service to visit Taiwan. Photos: Handouts

Abbate said in his speech that the FBI’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region excludes no one, and that each country in the Asia-Pacific region must be free to determine its own course within a system of values that ensures opportunity for even the smallest countries to thrive, free from the predatory activity of stronger states.

Abbate is the highest-level official from the US security and intelligence services to ever visit Taiwan.

The island has signed memorandums of understanding on law enforcement with Washington and Manila, according to the justice ministry. But it is excluded from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) due to Beijing’s adamant claim that the island is not a sovereign state but a breakaway province.

US officials noted that Taiwan’s absence would not only harm its 23 million people, but also “increases risks to all countries”, and lauded Taiwan as one of the US’ closest law enforcement partners.

Resisting invasion

There have also been reports that some program forums included discussion on public security agencies’ role in safeguarding sovereignty and resisting invasion, as well as related intelligence strategies.

Observers said Tsai’s remarks on Taiwan expanding its network on sharing intelligence and the FBI holding a program on the island suggests that Washington may have started sharing some classified intelligence with the island, a move that could further cement closer bilateral ties since Donald Trump took office in 2017.

There has been talk about a “sizeable” number of intelligence officers being stationed at the American Institute in Taiwan, which is Washington’s de-facto embassy.

Earlier, Taiwanese papers revealed that members of the US Marine Corps had been deployed at the new AIT compound.

The exterior of the new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan. Photo: Handout

The FBI conference is a follow-up event for law enforcement officers who participated in a 10-week course usually held in the US, covering all aspects of professional training required for law enforcement officers.

Personnel from Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau and National Police Agency have participated in the training since the early 1960s, and about 36 of them have graduated from the FBI campus in Quantico, Virginia. This security cooperation has continued despite Washington’s switch of diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Initiated in 1935, the FBI National Academy is a program for active US and international law enforcement personnel to enhance their credentials and build professional networks.