On Saturday, June 19, the US shipped 2.5 million Moderna vaccines to Taiwan. This generous act was a consolidated effort to save lives and establish a diplomatic relationship, according to three US senators.
The Biden Administration had previously announced plans to ship 80 million domestically-produced doses around the world; the donation of the 2.5 million doses is clearly related to meeting that goal. Although 750,000 doses were originally allocated for the country, that figure has increased tremendously.
The US has officially vowed to improve ties with Taiwan, with which it has not recently had a formal, diplomatic relationship.
Sen. Tammy Duckwork, D-Ill., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, made note of the massive shipment, specifically that it helps fulfill Biden’s export plan and sends a clear message to China.
According to a Reuters report, the US legislators had met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu to “discuss the pandemic and Taiwan’s security needs in the face of aggression from Beijing, which considers the island a breakaway territory instead of an autonomous nation.” Taiwan is an important location for the US to be a foil of sorts to the unwarranted pressure from Beijing.
China has recently been putting both political and military pressure on the island nation. The aggressor offered vaccine doses to Taiwan, however, but Taipei was concerned about the safety of said shots. Taipei’s previous plans to purchase doses of the BioTech vaccine from Germany were apparently thwarted by China although the accusation was denied.
The US officials reassured reporters that the gesture was not political in nature. Granted, there are reasons to think so. Some are skeptical that this decision was partially motivated by the desire for increasing their geopolitical clout. This significant act of vaccine diplomacy also comes at a time when the relationship with Taipei matters for other reasons: the US may now have better odds at securing their embedded chip supply chain (used in every electronic product).
Regardless, a large donation of vaccine doses is objectively good news for the world. The US also communicates that it will not tolerate China using the pandemic to strong-arm its subject nations.