BETTER TIES? AIT spokeswoman Sonia Urbom said that a new compound, which is to open this year in Taipei’s Neihu, shows deepening US commitment to Taiwan
/ Staff writer, with CNA
The US is to post US Marines at the new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan （AIT） once it is completed and AIT personnel are moved to the site in Taipei’s Neihu District （內湖）, former AIT director Stephen Young said on Wednesday.
Young, who served as AIT director from 2006 to 2009, said he had pushed strongly for the US to “have a [US] Marine security detachment protecting the mission in Taipei” and that he is “proud to say that it is the case today.”
The retired diplomat made the remarks at a speech at a conference held by Global Taiwan Institute, a Washington think tank, to discuss US President Donald Trump’s Taiwan policy.
The AIT’s current Taipei office is in Daan District （大安）.
The AIT has said that it will make the move to Neihu sometime this year.
“We made sure when we were designing our new office building that we were going to build a very nice marine house for our guys there,” Young said of the new facility.
This is not only because they deserve it for their own purposes, “but because when you go around the world, a marine house is the social center of any diplomatic corps and it will be in Taipei as well,” Young said.
This will be “a symbolic expression” of the US’ commitment to its friends in Taiwan, Young said.
It is not known whether the proposed marines unit would wear a military uniform as their counterparts do when protecting US embassies in other countries.
US Marines are posted at US overseas missions around the world to protect the diplomatic facilities and the personnel stationed there. A marine house is built to accommodate them.
Since Taipei and Washington severed diplomatic ties in 1979, there have been no US Marines stationed at the AIT office, because the US maintains only unofficial ties with Taiwan.
Having US Marines posted at the new AIT compound would likely be seen here as an indication of warm relations between the two nations.
The AIT yesterday said that it would not discuss specific security matters regarding the protection of its facility.
However, the new compound “is a demonstration of our ongoing and continuously deepening commitment to Taiwan,” AIT spokeswoman Sonia Urbom said.
“As is the practice at AIT’s current location, personnel detailed to AIT will provide security for the office compound, in cooperation with local authorities,” she said.
She said the projected completion date for the new facility is the middle of this year.
“We will begin the process of moving locations after the project has been completed,” she said.
Young’s speech was not the first time that a US Marine guard detachement at the Neihu site has been mooted.
The US Department of State ran an advertisement in the Taipei Times and the China Post on April 19, 2008, seeking contractors to build quarters for US Marine security guards at the Neihu compound.
On April 21, then-State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that the procurement announcement did not indicate anything more than in seeking a contractor, as the US wants to give bidders a “full range of options.”
The notices “included the broadest possible kinds of elements that might be included” in the new facility, Casey said.
The Marine Corps Times newspaper in April 2009 reported that the US Marine Corps had included the new facility on a list of new US embassy buildings for a meeting with State Department officials on security, but the meeting ended before the Taipei facility was discussed.
There were more media reports last year that US Marines would be based at the new compound, but AIT Director Kin Moy did not confirm it at the time.
The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it would not comment on the issue, as it should be left to the AIT and the State Department to do so.
There have been US military attaches assigned to AIT’s Taipei office since 2005, but they do not wear their uniforms and keep a low profile.
Additional reporting by Aaron Tu and Diane Baker