Taiwan has role in Indo-Pacific Security Strategy: Ex-U.S. official

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Taiwan has a solid role under the new "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" strategy proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, especially on the North Korean issue, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallace Gregson said Sunday in Taipei.Speaking at an international seminar on Taiwan's possible role in the Indo-Pacific Security Strategy, Gregson, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General, said Taiwan's role is "solid" in the U.S. vision."What is important is we must not allow North Korean activities to distract us from the big thing; the maintenance of the current international order and defense of free, open access to global commerce, and rule-based order," he noted.All these things represent what Taiwan, the U.S. and Japan believe in and the trio can manage the North Korea problem as they did during the Cold War period, with "robust, solid, and undoubted deterrence" against the communists, he stressed.Gregson made the comments at the "Taiwan's Opportunities under the Indo-Pacific Security Strategies" seminar organized by the Taipei-based Taiwan Thinktank.The Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, a new initiative introduced by the Trump administration on Nov. 2017, encompasses an area stretching from the U.S. West Coast to Japan, down through Southeast Asia to Australia, and west across another ocean to India.Commenting on the current administration, Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel who served as the first U.S. Marine liaison officer to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, said the unpredictability of Trump is not necessarily a bad thing for Taiwan as it might create a "window of opportunity" to develop concrete relationships between the two sides.Regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA) passed by the U.S. Congress over the past few months, Mark Stokes, executive director of U.S. think tank Project 2049 Institute, said the U.S. used to have restrictions on deputy assistance secretary level or above officials from visiting Taiwan after it established ties with Beijing.However, he noted that U.S. "One China Policy" is not Beijing's "One China Principle," and the former should not limit itself.For instance, he pointed out that U.S. aircraft are in Taiwan on a regular basis but Washington restricts visits from military vessels. Sending vessels and high level officials to Taiwan will not complicate the unofficial relationship, he added.Stokes proposed more innovations in promoting U.S-Taiwan relations, including naming a U.S. secretary of state as honorary chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) so that he or she can visit Taiwan in an unofficial capacity.AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.