While President Donald Trump’s new National Security Adviser John Bolton has said he would set aside his personal policy preferences and implement Trump’s policies, the new appointment sparks speculations that a review on the United States’ current one-China stance may be underway.
Bolton has long argued that Washington can play a “Taiwan card” to compel Beijing’s attention for its potentially destabilizing actions in East Asia and the South China Sea.
In a commentary published by the Wall Street Journal in 2016, Bolton said it was time to shake up U.S.-China relations.
“This may involve modifying or even jettisoning the ambiguous ‘one-China’ mantra, along with even more far-reaching initiatives to counter Beijing’s rapidly accelerating political and military aggressiveness in the South and East China seas,” wrote Bolton.
The Taiwanese government’s response to a potential change in U.S. policy has been low-key, while Beijing has brushed off speculation Washington is reviewing its one-China policy.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday the Chinese position on the policy “is very clear and the United States is very clear about this.”
“No matter who holds the position, the importance of Sino-U.S. relations is self-evident and there will be no change,” she added. “China and the United States respect each other, focus on cooperation, properly handle their differences to achieve a mutually beneficial and win-win result. This is consistent with the common interests of China and the United States, and is also the common expectation of the international community.”
A senior Taiwanese official said his government “is not doing anything or saying anything yet” on Bolton’s appointment to avoid unnecessary diplomatic repercussions.
Experts say Bolton, whose appointment does not require Senate confirmation, is likely to sharpen the Trump administration’s hawkish stance of “a position from strength” towards China, and “a real geopolitical competition with China.”
“Bolton claimed he would set aside his personal policy preferences and implement Trump’s policy, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t push for some of his long-standing priorities. Among those are regime change in North Korea and closer ties with Taiwan,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at Center for International and Strategic Studies.
Harry Kazianis, director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, told Voice of America that “Bolton will not only back the administration’s efforts to hit China with tariffs but also support crucial allies and partners in their disputes with Beijing in the East and South China Seas as well as making sure Taiwan’s democracy is never tampered with.”
Kazianis added he expected the new National Security Adviser to “press for Taiwan to get a much more full-throated relationship with the U.S.—and very likely a full-up review of our ties with Taipei.”