U.S. thanks Taiwan for humanitarian assistance in IS fight
Washington, March 23 (CNA) The U.S. State Department said on Thursday it appreciates Taiwan's commitment to providing humanitarian assistance as part of the U.S-led coalition to counter the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
"We certainly appreciate those contributions as we appreciate the contributions of all coalition members," acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a regular press briefing.
He was asked to comment on the attendance of a Taiwan envoy at a meeting of the coalition in Washington on Wednesday, and Taiwan's pledge to continue to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria.
"I think an important thing to emphasize is that big or small, whatever role any coalition member can play and partner can play, we appreciate it," Toner said. "I think what the message yesterday was we all need to see how we can do more to finish this."
Taiwan's top envoy to the United States Stanley Kao attended the Wednesday meeting along with officials representing 67 other members of the coalition. The meeting of the coalition, presided over by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was the first since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.
Kao not only attended the meeting, but was also invited to pose for a group photo with Tillerson and other officials. It is rare for a Taiwan official to attend a public event in a U.S. government building because of a lack of official ties between the two countries.
At the press conference on Thursday, Toner said Tillerson also noted the more than US$2 billion identified by coalition partners for humanitarian, stabilization, and de-mining needs and "called on all partners to rapidly fulfill their commitments."
Coalition members have pledged more than US$2 billion in assistance for Iraq and Syria this year. It is not known how much Taiwan has pledged to contribute in total.
The coalition, which was established in 2014 under the administration of former President Barack Obama, has 68 members. In addition to Taiwan, other coalition partners from the Asia-Pacific region include Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.
Taiwan's participation in the coalition has been in the area of humanitarian assistance. Such efforts include the donation of 350 temporary housing units for refugees in Iraq displaced by IS in 2014, after donating US$100,000 to help provide shelter for refugees in that area.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said recently that Taiwan donated funds in January to help set up mobile hospitals in Iraq and will continue to offer humanitarian assistance in the region, as well as help clear mines in the aftermath of the fighting.