The U.S. Department of Defense temporarily removed and reposted its new Nuclear Posture Review report from its website after mistakenly labeling Taiwan as part of mainland China — the latest lapse by the Trump administration involving the sensitive issue.
“There was an error printed in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review,” a Pentagon spokesperson told The Japan Times late Saturday when asked about the Taiwan labeling. The document, released Friday in Washington, was removed from the Defense Department website for several hours until the correction was made.
The U.S. established diplomatic relations with China in 1979, cutting formal ties with Taiwan as part of its “one-China” policy, though Washington has maintained friendly, nonofficial relations with Taipei — including weapons sales — as a policy of deliberate ambiguity so as to maintain stability in cross-strait relations and deter a potential invasion from the mainland.
China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be reunited by force if necessary, and relations have cooled dramatically since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office as Taiwan’s president in 2016.
The Department of Defense said the error would not affect the U.S. stance on the issue.
“U.S. policy toward Taiwan has remained consistent throughout seven presidential administrations, and is based on the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the three joint U.S.-China communiques, and the Six Assurances,” the Pentagon spokesperson said.
The Nuclear Posture Review error is not the first incident involving U.S. policy toward Taiwan and the administration of President Donald Trump.
In December 2016, Trump broke with decades of diplomatic tradition to become the first U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic ties were cut, holding a 10-minute phone call with Tsai.
East Asia experts said at the time that it was unclear if Trump and his advisers had understood the implications of that phone call.
A month later, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump again raised the prospect of using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in Sino-U.S. relations. Asked if he supported the one-China policy, Trump said: “Everything is under negotiation, including one China.”
Those remarks prompted a furious reaction from Beijing, and Chinese state-run media even labeled the issue a “Pandora’s box of lethal potential.”
In the months since, Trump’s hard line on Taiwan has softened, though his policy remains unclear.
The U.S. president is likely to again have to confront the issue soon, though, after the House of Representative passed legislation last month encouraging more diplomatic contacts between Trump officials and their Taiwanese counterparts.