US confirms active military personnel posted at AIT since 2005

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The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on April 3 confirmed for the first time that active U.S. military personnel have been posted at its Taipei office since 2005.

TAIPEI (CNA) — The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on April 3 confirmed for the first time that active U.S. military personnel have been posted at its Taipei office since 2005, and those deployments will continue after it relocates to its new office in Neihu on May 6.

The de facto embassy of the United States in Taiwan announced the date of its official move to the new compound in a 30-second video clip posted on its Facebook page.

The address of the new compound is No.100, Jinhu Road in Taipei’s Neihu District, according to the clip, which features AIT Taipei director Brent Christensen, his deputy Raymond Greene, AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour and Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮).

Media reports previously said the U.S. had already informed Taiwan’s national security officials that a small contingent of U.S. Marines would be posted at AIT’s new compound in Neihu.

The reports followed a statement in 2017 by ex-AIT Director Stephen Young that contained similar information.

AIT has never publicly confirmed such military postings, saying only there was “a small number of U.S. personnel at the current AIT office on Xinyi Road who were coordinating with Taiwanese security staff and that the situation would continue in Neihu.”

However, when asked by CNA to comment on possible marine postings on Wednesday following the announcement of the opening date of the new compound, Mansour confirmed the long-circulating rumor.

“Since 2005, U.S. government personnel detailed to AIT have included active duty military, including service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.” The spokesperson said this military personnel does not wear uniforms and she would not disclose how many are currently or will in future be posted at the new AIT compound.

Asked to comment on the significance of the confirmation, National Chengchi University Institute of International Relations professor Arthur Ding (丁樹範) told CNA the postings were common knowledge but suggested AIT’s official confirmation was a healthy sign, indicating the continued warming of Taiwan-U.S. relations.

U.S. Marines are posted at U.S. overseas missions around the world to protect the diplomatic facilities and the personnel stationed there. A marine house is built to accommodate marine guards posted at U.S. overseas missions.

A de facto embassy in nature, AIT is a private entity established in 1979 to manage U.S. relations with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

To meet growing demand, AIT rented a site in Neihu from Taipei City government for 99 years in 2004. The new office compound is on a 6.5-hectare hillside site within walking distance of the Neihu stop on Taipei MRT’s Brown Line.

A dedication ceremony was held June 12, 2018, to unveil the nearly completed 14,934-square-meter, five-story complex, though AIT is still operating out of its office on Xinyi Rd. that has been in use for nearly 40 years.

According to AIT, the new complex cost US$250 million and will unify its four current existing locations in Taipei under one roof.

From noon on May 1, all of its current facilities, including the AIT Main Office and Consular Section on Xinyi Road, the Commercial Section and the American Center at the International Trade Center, and the Agricultural Trade Office at Anhe Road, will be closed to the public in preparation for the grand opening of the new facility on May 6.

By Joseph Yeh