Both US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young have made recent comments on the cross-strait situation. Some of their comments were new, and they also contained some important messages from the administration of US President George W. Bush.
First, during a hearing in the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee, several pro-Taiwan representatives asked if the US decided not to permit President Chen Shui-bian (
To give Congress a clear picture of the administration's position, Zoellick used stronger words than he has in the past, saying that the arrangement for Chen's transit was decided by Washington itself.
"We make our own decisions," Zoellick said. In response to repeated questioning, he emphasized that keeping one's promises is the most important thing in both politics and diplomacy, hinting that the US did not allow Chen to transit through New York in order to make him pay for past words and deeds.
Zoellick also pointed out that it is a good thing for the US to demand that foreign leaders take responsibility for their promises. Since "honesty is the best policy" is a value deeply rooted in the US psyche, his blunt remarks touched many of the Congressional representatives.
When Taiwan eventually mends its relations with the US, it should never again take advantage of representatives' goodwill toward our country.
Next, as the key US figure responsible for China policy, Zoellick also pointed out that the US will not support Taiwan independence; nor will it dance to the tune of Taiwan's politicians. "Because let me be very clear: Independence means war ... There are big stakes here, where lives can be lost," he said. On the same day, during a speech at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Young said that Zoellick is opposed to Taiwan independence.
However, Young later corrected his remarks, saying that he should have said "we don't support" Taiwan independence.
Moreover, Zoellick said that "I think [Taiwan] is going to keep hitting into a wall" if it repeatedly attempts to challenge the US "one China" policy. Obviously, his words were more straightforward than those of former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who complained in 2004 that Taiwan is probably the biggest "landmine" in Sino-US relations.
Zoellick's testimony shows that the US will watch Taiwan's every move closely in the next two years. In his speech, Young deliberately echoed Zoellick's comments, stressing that Taiwan must handle the amendment of its Constitution with caution and without touching on Taiwan independence, lest it arouse US concern.
Bush's move to directly handle Chen's transit issue has echoes of US Vice President Dick Cheney's China visit in April 2004, when Cheney intimated for the first time that the US and China have a consensus on preventing Taiwanese independence.
This consensus was extended during the recent meeting between Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), so that now high-ranking officials in the US administration, including Bush himself, will directly intervene at crucial points in the cross-strait relationship.
Zoellick bluntly pointed out that it is important for the US in its diplomatic policies to make sure that Taiwanese officials take responsibility for their promises, and that they must clarify any ambiguities. Clearly, Zoellick was referring to Chen's political promises: the "four noes and one not" (