TAIPEI, Taiwan -- As "a symbolic expression" of the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, U.S. Marines will be posted at the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound in Taipei once it is open for business this year, former AIT Director Stephen Young said on Wednesday.
No Marines have been posted in Taiwan since Washington severed ties with Taipei and recognized Beijing instead in 1979.
Numerous media reports over the past few years have previously said that U.S. Marines would be posted at the AIT, but Young is the first ex-AIT official to speak publicly on the matter.
Having U.S. Marines posted at the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan would be seen as an indication of warming Taiwan-U.S. relations and could further anger China amid heightened cross-strait tensions since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in May 2016. Speaking at a seminar in Washington, Young, who was AIT director from 2006-2009, said he pushed strongly for the U.S. to "have a Marine security detachment protecting the mission in Taipei."
Commenting on the office compound in Neihu that is currently under construction, Young said, "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." This is not only because they deserved 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," he said. This will be "a symbolic expression" of the U.S. commitment to its friends in Taiwan, Young said.
The AIT rented a 6-hectare compound in Neihu from the Taipei City Government for 99 years in 2004. The AIT's new office compound is being built on a 6.5-hectare hillside site within walking distance of the Neihu stop of Taipei's Neihu MRT line. The compound will include an office building of approximately 14,000 square meters, a parking area and ancillary structures. The compound was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015 but has been beset by delays.
No Confirmation from AIT Spokeswoman
The AIT did not comment on the statement by its former director. AIT spokeswoman Sonia Urbom told The China Post that AIT's New Office Compound was "a demonstration of our ongoing and continuously deepening commitment to Taiwan."
"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 noted.
"We do not discuss specific security matters concerning the protection of our facility," she added. Currently there are security personnel stationed at the AIT's headquarters in Taipei located in the city's Daan District, according to local media.