Wed, Mar 13, 2002 - Page 1 News List

US says aid for Taiwan helps region

DEFENSE SUMMIT The US deputy secretary of defense met with defense minister Tang Yao-ming in Florida on Monday and said US military assistance stabilizes the region

AGENCIES , ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA AND TAIPEI

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Monday that the US assistance provided to help improve Taiwan's defense capability allows the nation to handle exchanges with China on a balanced basis.

Such a measure is congruent with US interests and is beneficial to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying at a dinner at the three-day closed-door "US-Taiwan Defense Summit."

Summit participants said that Wolfowitz thanked Taiwan in his speech for its support of the US-led campaign against terrorism and its provision of humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) had held a landmark meeting with Wolfowitz on the sidelines of the privately organized conference.

Tang assured Wolfowitz that Taipei will not make any provocative moves in dealing with China.

"We were talking about how to make the Taiwan Strait even more stable. Our military will not provoke a conflict. This is our policy," Tang stressed.

The 100-minute closed-door session between Tang and Wolfowitz marked the highest-level meeting between ROC and US defense officials since the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 1979.

Tang told reporters after the meeting that he and Wolfowitz decided to make use of the time between speeches they were delivering at the conference to hold unscheduled talks about the stability of the Strait.

Such a meeting is "very normal," he said, pointing out that it will have "positive effects" on mutual understanding and further work in maintaining stability in the Strait.

He added that the atmosphere surrounding the discussions was cordial.

Tang said that neither the subject of individual arms sales to Taiwan nor the possibility of incorporating Taiwan into a US-led Asia Pacific defense system were mentioned.

He also said that he does not believe his US visit will trigger tension in the Strait.

Tang also said he sought Wolfowitz's advice on how to restructure Taiwan's military so it's more like the US, with a civilian leader in control of the forces.

The "United States-Taiwan Defense Summit" is organized by the US-Taiwan Business Council, whose chairman, Frank Carlucci, once served as secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.

On Monday, Carlucci said the conference will enable the US government to be more rational in its approach to future arms sales to Taiwan.

"We discussed the overall relationships between Taiwan and the United States, of course in the context of our respective defense establishments, and their military procurement systems. We're a commercial organization. We're essentially interested in helping our companies do business in Taiwan; we're not involved in the politics of it," Carlucci explained.

Asked about the significance of the meeting, Carlucci said: "I think this will enable us to be much more rational in our approach to arms sales to Taiwan."

US defense contractors will also be able to better tailor their equipment and sales to meet Taiwan's defense needs, Carlucci said, adding: "That's essentially what this is about."

"We are selling to Taiwan weapons for legitimate self-defense. It's a question of self-defense in the face of what appears to be a growing threat, if you look in military terms, although in political terms it seems to be easing a bit," he noted.

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