The U.S. appointed a new top representative to Taiwan, in the Biden administration’s latest move to strengthen ties with Taipei amid increasing pressure from Beijing. Sandra Oudkirk is the incoming director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s Taipei office, the de facto U.S. ambassador in the absence of official ties, succeeding Brent Christensen later this summer, the institute said in a statement Tuesday night.
Oudkirk takes over at a time of significant change in Taiwan’s relationship with the U.S. and China — and as the Biden administration’s slow pace of naming envoys sees the position in Beijing vacant for the past ninth months. Washington has sought to beef up its semi-official ties with Taipei in commercial and cultural sectors, to go alongside already robust cooperation in defense, in an effort to push back against what it sees as an increasingly assertive China.
Christian Castro, a former head of Taiwan affairs at the State Department, said one of the most important things Oudkirk will need is a belief in Taiwan’s overall strategic importance and its value as a global democratic standard bearer. “What really matters now is for the new director to have the resolve to meet this moment,” he said in an email before Tuesday’s announcement.