When interviewed by the US' Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on Dec. 10, outgoing US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage sidestepped a question about whether the US will come to Taiwan's defense if China attacks.
He pointed out that "we have the requirement with the Taiwan Relations Act to keep sufficient force in the Pacific to be able to deter attack; we are not required to defend. And these are questions that actually reside with the US Congress, who has to declare an act of war."
Surprisingly, his remarks stirred up a frenzied round of over-interpretation throughout Taiwan. As usual, the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) immediate and incomprehensible reaction to the remarks was to speak for the US and interpret the comments as another warning to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government.
Prior to the US presidential election, US Secretary of State Colin Powell mistakenly brought up "peaceful unification" as the solution to the cross-strait dispute in an interview with the media during his visit to Beijing.
A US source familiar with this incident revealed that upon checking the coverage concerning Powell's remark, Armitage made a phone call to Powell. He asked him: "Mr. Powell, do you plan to change the current policy toward China?" Amazed, Powell said, "No, I don't, how come you came up with a question like this?"
Armitage explained that the US policy toward this issue is a "peaceful resolution" rather than "peaceful unification." After this conversation, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher came forward and reiterated the "peaceful resolution" stance.
After returning to the US, Powell arranged another TV interview and restated the US' policy, replacing "peaceful unification" with "peaceful resolution."
[In other words,] Armitage was aware of the US' long-standing stance and knew that it had no intention of changing its policy. In the interview with PBS, Armitage only aimed to state the consistency of US policy, including the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, 台灣關係法) and three joint communiques, which serve as the foundation of the US' policy. His statement concerning the US Constitution and the TRA is also a fact based on the rule of law. But even though Armitage is well-versed in the US' China policy, he still made a grave mistake in his statement regarding Taiwan.
The mistake, made during the interview with the PBS, lies in this statement: "But I think we have to manage this question appropriately. We all agree that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China."
Obviously, "we" refers to "the US."
He went further, saying that "we are guided in our own relationship with China by three communiques, which have been negotiated by successive administrations, and the Taiwan Relations Act." This proves that his statement was mistaken, because in the three communiques the US only "acknowledges" China's stance that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
The US, however, never "recognized" or "agreed" with China's stance.
[Starting decades ago,] China, KMT-ruled Taiwan and the US all had different interpretations of the so-called "one China" policy created by the US.?When the US broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and recognized China, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (