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In contrast to accounts that the current US administration has signaled a shift toward increased support for Taiwan’s government, a Taiwanese academic said Sunday that the self-governed island can no longer count on Washington for its defense.

The former head of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Kung Chia-cheng, said at a conference on Sunday that the US will withdraw from the so-called first island china, a move that would “diminish Taiwan’s international importance,” as reported by Taiwan News.

The first island chain strategic demarcation stretches from the Southern tip of islands controlled by Japan, all the way into the South China Sea.

Kung suggested that Taiwan can no longer rely on a security blanket provided by US aircraft carriers, and should begin planning for a new strategic context.

The scholar cited the Trump administration’s willingness to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea as a signal that the US was moving towards a sweeping concession of power in the region to accommodate China’s growing influence.

The contrarian prediction comes as the US Navy has reaffirmed its intention to continue operating in the region and has made efforts to bolster ties with allies.

While important national security positions in the Trump administration have been staffed with figures seen as hawkish on foreign policy issues, including Taiwan and the South China Sea, the president himself has at times contradicted his staff. The surprise announcement that the US was open to ending joint military exercises with South Korea was an example of this, with reports indicating that staff members, and US allies, were not given advance notice.

China claims Taiwan as a sovereign territory, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to have aims on achieving reunification while he is in office. The US maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” not officially acknowledging Taiwan as an independent nation, while at the same time supplying its government with arms and pledging defense should Beijing attempt to take the territory by force.

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